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Oahu beaches, outdoor courts and playing fields officially open

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A family crossed Kalakaua Avenue on Friday on the way to the beach in Waikiki. The city announced people can relax on the sand and in the water, so long as certain restrictions are observed.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A family crossed Kalakaua Avenue on Friday on the way to the beach in Waikiki. The city announced people can relax on the sand and in the water, so long as certain restrictions are observed.

Oahu beaches, outdoor courts and playing fields are officially open today, subject to COVID-19 restrictions on group size, social distancing and time of day, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Friday following a run of sunny, breezy, surf-filled days that already felt like summer.

Cindy McMillan, spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige, confirmed in an email that Ige “has been working with Mayor Caldwell and did approve the request to open beaches on Oahu.”

Now, rather than having to keep moving on beaches, people can relax on the sand and in the water, so long as certain restrictions are observed. Prior to Friday’s announcement, beaches were open only for getting to the ocean for exercise, fishing or gathering, or for fitness activities such as walking and jogging.

Even though more public recreation sites are open, the same restrictions apply as before: Groups are limited to members of the same household or living unit, and no group can exceed 10 persons. All persons using the beach who are not members of the same household are to comply with social distancing requirements, provided that a caregiver may accompany a dependent. Also, the beach or sand area may be used only a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, unless engaged in shorefishing or permitted outdoor exercise.

And the mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers also remains in effect.

Friday was also the first day public and private outdoor courts and playing fields on Oahu were reopened for one-on-one sports permitting social distancing and other exercise with limitations, under an amendment to an emergency order the mayor announced Thursday.

The regulars at the city’s Donald A. Andrews Tennis Center at Diamond Head didn’t waste any time getting back on the courts Friday. After nearly two months of stillness and silence, laughter and the sound of racquets hitting balls filled the air.

Everyone was playing singles, as mandated by Caldwell’s amended order, which permits activities “in which it is both possible and reasonable for individuals to maintain six feet of physical distance between each other at all times” — which rules out basketball, for instance.

Asked how it felt to be back on the courts, Manoa resident Karen Suenaga, taking a brief timeout from a brisk game of pickleball against Lien Vuong of Kaimuki, said “It feels fantastic!”

“It feels great. Finally, my muscles aren’t wasting away,” Vuong said.

Both women wore masks as they exercised, which is recommended but not required under state and city rules that mandate the wearing of face masks when entering essential and designated businesses.

Tennis players on the three other courts in use went maskless, including married couple Dustin Johnson and Vanda Hampp.

“I’m feeling a little rusty but good,” Hampp said. “It’s nice to be out.”

Although they had each been staying fit with yoga, stretching, running and biking, these were solitary activities, whereas tennis was something the couple could do together, Johnson said.

“Tennis is mentally as well as physically stimulating, but most of all it’s a social game,” he said.

“It’s something we can share,” Hampp added.

Asked whether beachgoers must wear masks, “face coverings are not mandated when relaxing on the beach,” said Alexander Zannes, the mayor’s communications director in an email, adding, “We highly recommend people wear face coverings whenever they are out in public.”

Meanwhile, although they expressed gratitude to the mayor for reopening tennis courts to singles play, Suenaga and Vuong, along with two other sets of players at Diamond Head, said they wouldn’t be satisfied until the latest amendment got amended.

“We should be able to play doubles,” Vuong said.

“I think the order for just singles needs to be revised for old people; it’s not hard for us to keep 6 feet apart,” said Mark “Chopper” Gruber, 72, adding that while younger players run around and sometimes collide, “I’m known not to move at all on the court.”

But Johnson and Hampp said they appreciated the city’s efforts to keep people safe as well as active.

“It’s a hard balance to find,” Johnson said.

Also on Friday, Caldwell announced Ige had approved the opening of restaurants on Oahu to dine-in services starting June 5, with certain restrictions that are still being finalized and will be released next week.

For more information on the city’s new beach and outdoor play amendments, visit oneoahu.org, or call the 768-CITY (2489) information hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, or email covidresponse@honolulu.gov.

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