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Hawaii beaches reopen to immense joy from weeks-long isolated residents

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Many flocked to Oahu beaches Saturday on the first day people were allowed back on the sand just to relax. Brothers Conrad, left, George and Samson enjoyed the sand and sun at Ala Moana Beach Park. Previously beaches were open only for fitness activities or getting to the ocean for exercise or fishing.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Many flocked to Oahu beaches Saturday on the first day people were allowed back on the sand just to relax. Brothers Conrad, left, George and Samson enjoyed the sand and sun at Ala Moana Beach Park. Previously beaches were open only for fitness activities or getting to the ocean for exercise or fishing.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                People practiced social distancing in the water at Point Panic in Kakaako on Saturday morning.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    People practiced social distancing in the water at Point Panic in Kakaako on Saturday morning.

Beaches across Oahu sprang to life Saturday after two months of closure in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

Many residents jumped at the chance to socialize.

Gov. David Ige issued a stay-at-home order on March 25.

Aaron Walker, of Makiki, was on the sand with his two roommates Saturday afternoon at Ala Moana Regional Park, along with hundreds of other beachgoers under umbrellas, on towels and in the water.

He had been keeping to mostly work and home before Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Friday that Oahu beaches would reopen.

>> PHOTOS: Oahu beaches reopen for the first time since March

“I felt like it was a reward because you’re practicing social distancing,” he said. “It’s kind of weird because everyone’s kind of distancing apart. I like it.”

Walker’s roommates, Sarah Phillips and Moriah Tate, swam in the ocean while the beaches were still closed and recalled watching police clear people from the beach. Saturday marked the first time they were able to relax on the sand.

“I was kind of glad,” Phillips said. “It’s just kind of hard when you don’t have (air conditioning).”

The reopening of Oahu’s beaches Saturday and of major malls Friday were the latest steps in the city’s phased approach to easing coronavirus restrictions as the state continues to see low numbers of new cases. On Saturday, Hawaii had two new cases, one on Oahu and one on Hawaii island, bringing the statewide tally to 639. The death toll remained at 17.

Caldwell’s stay-at-home emergency order — known as Ho‘oulu i Honolulu 2.0 or Restore Honolulu 2.0 — remains in effect through June 30 and still requires residents to stay at home, but allows residents to relax on beaches on the island. The amended order limits groups to members of the same household and to a size of 10.

It requires social distancing of 6 feet from others outside of the household.

At Kaimana Beach at the Diamond Head end of Waikiki, hundreds were gathered on the beach. Many were practicing social distancing, although it was difficult to keep the required distance while walking through the crowd of sunbathers.

Partners Robert Thach and Jinny Schiller took their 7-year-old daughter Clare to the beach and found it more crowded than a regular day before the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a nice day,” Schiller said. “It’s been a long time since we came to the beach.”

Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said lifeguards were busy Saturday with rescues.

“Lifeguards reported packed beaches across the island, on the same level with major holiday crowds,” she said in an email statement. “There was sizable surf across the state, with it being the biggest on the North Shore at 8-10 feet.”

She said by late Saturday afternoon, lifeguards had rescued 266 people and took 13,168 preventative actions around the island.

Also Saturday, Caldwell proclaimed the day Hawaii Nurses Association Day after being inspired by three nurses who stood in scrubs and held signs in counter-­protest at the state Capitol on May 1 when hundreds of people demonstrated against local government restrictions to stop COVID-19.

Caldwell said the nurses showed “courage in action” by showing up to tell their side of the story.

Handling visitors

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Saturday that another 286 visitors arrived in Hawaii on Friday, matching the peak day for visitor traffic — last Monday — since Ige’s order requiring incoming passengers self-quarantine for 14 days took effect March 26.

Altogether, 996 trans-­Pacific passengers arrived Friday, including 333 residents on 19 flights. The other passengers were crew members, passengers traveling to other destinations and intended new residents. Some 257 visitors traveled to Oahu and 13 went to Maui and 16 to Lihue.

About 49% of the visitors who came to Oahu on Friday and filled out an optional form indicated that they planned to stay with friends or family.

Hawaii residents who are hosting visitors may soon have to sign a document making them complicit if the visitor violates the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine order, said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D-Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa-­Whitmore Village) on Saturday.

That’s one idea the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 is considering to close quarantine loopholes.

“We want to give the public confidence in the system. If we don’t focus on getting the quarantine screening and verification right, it won’t create a climate where people will be interested in increasing the number of arrivals,” Dela Cruz said.

On Maui, police reported a 23-year-old Colorado woman was arrested Saturday morning after she ignored the 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers.

Police said she was seen in Haiku and may have gone to Kihei before she was arrested about 1:40 a.m. Saturday at a home in Kula where she was refusing to leave the property.

She was arrested for investigation of two counts of disobeying rules and orders related to the coronavirus pandemic and her bail was set at $4,000.

At Kaimana Beach in Waikiki, Marja Queyquep, of Mililani, chatted with six in-laws she hadn’t seen since Ige’s stay-at-home orders were issued. She said the beach was a way to see family in a different setting other than video chats and felt safer there than at a mall.

She said she wanted to get to the beach while she could.

“What if we get another wave and they take it away again,” she said. “Let’s take advantage of it.”


Star-Advertiser reporter Mark Ladao contributed to this story.


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