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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell allows limited use of parks, religious activities

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  • Video courtesy Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell

    Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he has asked Gov. David Ige to allow restaurants to reopen for indoor dining by June 5 and will request the state reopen beaches as long as the number of coronavirus cases remain low on Oahu.

                                The Manoa courts were rained out today, but tomorrow they’re back in play for tennis players due to limited reopening of public spaces.


    The Manoa courts were rained out today, but tomorrow they’re back in play for tennis players due to limited reopening of public spaces.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell extended his “safer-from-home” emergency order, with modifications, through June 30, and called for Gov. David Ige to allow indoor dining at Oahu restaurants starting June 5.

During a wide-ranging news conference Thursday, Caldwell also said he will allow a limited use of outdoor sports fields and courts as well as drive-in religious services to open today, joining most retail establishments.

What’s being dubbed the Ho‘ouli Honolulu (Restore Honolulu) 2.0 Order, signed by Caldwell late Wednesday, was given pre-approval by the governor, the mayor said.

The new emergency order allows for one-on-one sports and exercise activities where “it is both possible and reasonable” for participants to maintain 6 feet of physical distance, including singles tennis, singles pickleball, yoga and tai chi.

Participants also would be required to wear nonmedical-grade face coverings.

Still not allowed are one-on-one sports and exercise activities where it would be difficult to maintain the 6-foot social distancing guidelines, including one-on-one or team basketball.

Caldwell said he doesn’t anticipate spectator sports or even youth league activities to reopen anytime soon because it would be difficult to adhere to social distancing guidelines at those types of events.

“That’s pretty far down the calendar from where we are today,” the mayor said. “It’s one of the most difficult things; large sports gatherings where spectators are watching is going to be one of the last things to open up.”

Those organizations that have paid fees in advance for the use of city facilities will be refunded, Caldwell said.

Also being allowed under the latest order are drive-in services for spiritual and religious purposes starting today.

The order allows servicegoers to attend such gatherings provided they drive up in enclosed vehicles and remain in them for the duration of proceedings.

Vehicle windows, sunroofs and convertible tops must remain closed during the entire service, unless the vehicle is parked more than 6 feet away from any other vehicle. A vehicle must also only be occupied by members of the same household or living unit, and no food, beverages, equipment or materials of any kind may be distributed or collected during the service.

Bishop Larry Silva, who heads the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Honolulu, said in a statement that while he’s happy to see restrictions for gatherings for worship being eased by the mayor, “the ‘in vehicle’ services, especially with the prohibition of distributing anything, simply is not what is needed for Catholic worship.”

Silva noted that the act of receiving Holy Communion, where parishioners receive a sacramental wafer of bread, is at the heart of a Catholic Mass service. “Having people ‘attend’ a service from their vehicles when they are prohibited from receiving Communion is of little value to us,” Silva said. “People would be much more comfortable viewing a livestream from home if they could not receive Communion.”

Silva said he’s hopeful that standard religious practices will be allowed soon, “just as restaurants are soon to be open with proper protocols.”

Violating the emergency orders may be punishable as a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail or both.

Under an earlier emergency order, Caldwell announced that most commercial establishments will be allowed to open starting Friday so long as social distancing and other safety measures designed to lessen the spread of COVID-19 are in place. A key exception is sit-down service at food establishments, an activity that is still disallowed.

On Thursday, Caldwell said the governor asked for more time to consider his request to allow Oahu restaurants to open.

Currently, restaurants can be open for takeout and delivery only.

Dining facilities would need to abide by certain guidelines if they intend to open for indoor service, including having tables at least 6 feet apart, the mayor said.

Because that will limit seating capacity, he wants to allow restaurants “to take tables and chairs out onto city sidewalks and into city malls and next to city parks,” Caldwell said. “Being outdoors is something that is healthy, and we have one of the best outdoor environments in the world.”

While his target date is three weeks away, starting a conversation now on reopening restaurants will provide time to observe what the coronavirus infection situation will be like as other retail businesses start opening up beginning Friday, he said.

Both customers and servers would need to wear face coverings, Caldwell said. That’s something other businesses that involve contact with customers are required to follow. Customers would be allowed to remove their face coverings when they sit down to eat, he said.

Staff would need to be pre-screened each day, and there would need to be a constant cleaning and disinfecting of tables and other areas used by the public, he said.

Customers also may be required to enter from one entrance and leave out another door, he said.

Ige, at a roundtable late Thursday, said only that he is considering when to reopen “medium-risk” businesses including restaurants, hair salons and barbershops.

Victor Lim, government affairs committee chairman for the Hawaii Restaurant Association, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he likes what Caldwell is saying but wishes he would consider allowing restaurants to open earlier.

Lim said the association has been discussing opening guidelines, similar to those described by Caldwell, with the Department of Health and that Ige has indicated to the group that he’s considering allowing them to open as early as May 25-28.

Pushing back the opening date of restaurants will mean fewer will be able to do so, said Lim, owner of a number of Oahu McDonald’s restaurants.

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