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Memorial Day celebrated with no new Hawaii COVID-19 cases

Bryce Marcouiller came up empty fishing on his boat Monday off Maunalua Bay, but that wasn’t bad considering a more serious and positive goose egg landed on Memorial Day.

For the third time in four days, no new coronavirus cases were detected in Hawaii.

Monday also was the first time there were no new cases on back-to-back days in the state.

As such, Hawaii’s COVID- 19 case count remained at 643, according to the state Department of Health.

For residents around the state, Memorial Day took on a unique feel under social distancing rules during a holiday known for somber tributes but also gatherings outdoors.

At Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai, more than 100 people spent the afternoon on kayaks, paddleboards, fishing from the shore and relaxing under shade tents. Most people were spread out, though some who gathered together obviously weren’t family members.

In Mokuleia, law enforcement officials reported breaking up a beach party with an estimated 200 participants in part of Ka‘ena Point State Park over several hours from late Sunday night into the wee hours of Monday morning.

Jason Redulla, Conservation and Resources Enforcement Division chief for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, described the party as an example of “bad and selfish behavior” that the public has been advised against during the coronavirus pandemic.

DLNR described many of the partyers as off-duty military personnel and said it took 4-1/2 hours to disperse the crowd and ensure that revelers cleaned up things they brought to the beach.

“This is a day when we remember the sacrifices of the men and women who’ve given their lives in defense of our country and it’s disappointing that the urge to socialize and party, at this particular time, overrides any obligation to duty and common sense,” he said in a statement.

No citations were issued by DLNR and Honolulu Police Department officers involved in breaking up the party, which DLNR said was promoted on social media and followed large gatherings in the same area on Friday and Saturday nights.

DLNR also said there were issues of illegal camping.

Professionally organized events typically held on Memorial Day with large crowds were canceled, including a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Punchbowl Crater and the Shinnyo Lantern Floating Festival at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Steve and Stella Russo spent their Memorial Day taking their two children out on kayaks in Maunalua Bay where they planned to snorkel along the distant reef after spending many weeks largely cooped up in their Hawaii Kai home.

“It’s fantastic,” Steve Russo said amid the sunshine. “Beautiful.”

“We’re not commingling with other people,” added his wife, Stella. “We’re taking (COVID-19) very seriously. I study the graphs daily.”

She said one of her big concerns is the few hundred tourists who keep arriving in Hawaii daily under a hard-to-enforce and sometimes ignored condition that they remain in their visitor accommodation for 14 days without going out.

“I feel it could blow up again really quickly,” she said, referring to the new coronavirus potentially being spread by visitors violating the quarantine order that Gov. David Ige recently extended through June 30.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority announced Monday that 248 visitors arrived in Hawaii on Sunday. That was down from 384 visitor arrivals on Saturday, which set a record for daily visitor arrivals since the state’s mandatory quarantine for air travelers took effect March 26.

The number of visitors by air has been rising over the past month but remains far below the 30,000 passengers — mostly visitors — who were arriving in the islands daily at this time last year.

Of the 248 visitors who arrived Sunday, 200 reported Oahu as their destination, but only 13 indicated the purpose of their trip included vacation. Of the 200, 148 said they were visiting friends and family, while 33 said they came for business. Six of the travelers did not disclose a purpose of their visit.

State officials have been tracking down some visitors who arrive in Hawaii and violate the quarantine.

Special agents with the state Attorney General’s Office have reported arresting 15 quarantine violators, and county police departments have arrested additional suspects.

The visitor quarantine was put in place to help prevent rekindling cases of COVID-19 that have killed 17 people in Hawaii, the last reported May 3. Of the deaths, 11 were on Oahu and six on Maui.

Since the start of the outbreak, 83 people in Hawaii have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Health Department officials said Monday that one prior hospitalization was removed from an earlier total because of new information.

As of Monday, 34 people were still infected with the new coronavirus, and 592 people are no longer regarded as being able to spread the virus.

Health officials typically assess hundreds of new test results each day, and to date have conducted about 43,523 tests in which about 1.4% have been positive.

Throughout May the number of new cases per day has ranged from zero to four. The last time new cases reached double digits was April 18 when officials reported 22 new cases.

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