The great outdoors has never seemed greater than during a seven-week government “stay at home” order. And living in beautiful Hawaii, it has been downright difficult to be cooped up for long. Further, there’s been some confusion between state and county policies over beach and park use.
Things got a lot clearer this week, with the welcome reopening of many state parks and monuments — for exercise only, with proper physical distancing. The state lifting aligns with Oahu’s April 25 reopening of 300 city parks, for exercise only — running, walking, biking — but not for picnicking, camping or team sports.
Among the state parks reopened for day use: the Fort Ruger Pathway outside Diamond Head State Monument (the monument’s interior and crater remain closed), Sand Island State Recreation Area and Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline (the lookouts remain closed). For the list, see dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp.
Technically, mask-wearing is not required while exercising outdoors, but around town, many joggers can be seen mindfully masked. And to concerns that passing joggers could be spreading germs beyond a 6-foot wake: the state Health Department reassures that as long as people are moving briskly past each other, even if within 6 feet and not wearing a mask, there is very low to no risk.
The health of humans is top of mind, of course, but the health of marine life and their ecosystems also have seen welcome benefits from state park restrictions. “Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and other marine animals that frequent our shores have largely had near-shore waters and beaches to themselves for the past six weeks,” DLNR officials said Wednesday, in reminding people to be respectful of the isles’ natural treasures and critters.
The gradual easing of prohibitions prompted talk this week about total lifting of outdoor restrictions, to allow gatherings at beaches and parks. But much as that sounds good after weeks of “stay at home,” it would be premature. Even if the risk of outdoor contagion is relatively mild, there is strong risk of complacency. Recent scenes of tens of thousands packing southern California beaches inform Hawaii’s need to move carefully to maintain our statewide success in flattening the coronavirus case curve.
So go: take advantage of this no-tourist period, and revel in the joy of living in paradise. Getting ample sunlight is good for both body and soul. Just remember to keep your distance.