The Honolulu Police Department is toughening up enforcement of the mayor’s stay-at-home, work-at-home order and the governor’s emergency proclamation in response to the new coronavirus.
“As of today we’ve decided to move forward with full enforcement rather than warnings,” HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy said at a news conference Tuesday with Mayor Kirk Caldwell, adding the public has been given warning enough.
Over the past couple of weeks, police have issued more than 5,000 warnings and hundreds of citations and made 26 arrests for violating state and city stay-at-home orders. The violations are classified as misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.
On Tuesday a 36-year- old man was arrested at 12:35 a.m. for violating park closure rules on Lanakila Avenue in Kalihi, violating emergency rules, disobeying a police officer and contempt. A 25-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman were arrested shortly afterward in Kaimuki for violating emergency rules.
Watch Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s news conference in the videos below:
While Kauai County has instituted stricter rules, including checkpoints and a 9 p.m. curfew, HPD is not setting up checkpoints or requiring some sort of documentation to verify people are engaged in essential activities. McCarthy said that for the most part, people are abiding by the orders.
He denied rumors that police have been citing people for talking to a friend in a public place or that motorists are being stopped and asked where they are going and fined $5,000 for saying they are on their way to visit a friend.
Police are not routinely stopping vehicles with multiple occupants, McCarthy said, but are on the lookout for gatherings of 10 or more, and for people who are violating the emergency orders that limit activity outside the home to essential tasks.
Caldwell also has forbidden visitors who arrived after March 26, when the governor’s 14-day quarantine requirement was put in place, to stay at vacation rentals, legal or otherwise. He said vacation rentals are not considered essential businesses, and that it’s difficult to monitor whether visitors staying in such accommodations are complying with the self-quarantine rule.
The mayor also clarified rules for outdoor activities, since there is some confusion over what’s allowed while city parks and beach parks are closed. He said it’s not OK to lounge around or gather close together on the beach, but people are allowed to swim, surf, run, walk, fish and collect limu.
Once done with the activity, though, they must leave, he said.
“Now is a time to practice discipline and exercise social distancing,” he admonished. “This is not a time to come out of your home and go play on the beach or in the park.”
Despite CDC guidelines that advise not to disrupt homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it could spread infectious disease into the greater community, Caldwell said it’s a different story if they have a place to go.
Officials have said Oahu does not have enough shelter space for the 2,700 unsheltered, and the city is in its second week of not enforcing rules relating to the homeless. HPD Capt. Mark Lambert said home- less encampments such as those on sidewalks in Iwilei are growing.
HPD has rolled out a program that would repurpose large, self-inflating tents that were supposed to house a portion of Oahu’s homeless population and instead use them for the Provisional Outdoor Screening Triage facility program.
Funding for the $6 million HONU program came from the state, and the city also will seek federal funding for the tents, which cost $35,000 apiece.
The program will accept only asymptomatic homeless persons, who will self-quarantine for 15 days. Those who develop symptoms will be identified and taken for treatment “instead of having them roaming throughout our community and potentially spreading COVID,” said Lambert.
Those without COVID-19 will be directed to shelters after the quarantine period.
HPD will man the first location at Keehi Lagoon Park, where restrooms and tents are set up, allowing the homeless to exercise social distancing in a controlled environment.
The city has 18 tents and can house 40 to 50 people at Keehi Lagoon. Other locations will be made available.