Beaches and parks on Oahu will be closed to the public once again as the city attempts to control the spread of COVID-19, and while some park users and beachgoers appear understanding of the closure, they’re not totally convinced it will help.
Kapiolani Park and the beach and grassy areas between Queen’s Surf Beach and Kaimana Beach were busy Thursday afternoon, and by 6:30 p.m. most of the parking along Kalakaua and Kapahulu avenues and at the Waikiki Shell was taken. Most people were distancing themselves from other groups, but many were without masks.
That today is the last day to lie on the beach or go to the park for a month wasn’t met with much surprise.
“Just by looking at it everyday when I ride my bike, because I live Kaimuki side, I see the numbers (of people at the parks) growing and growing and growing, and people are not taking it serious,” said Jarrett Liu, who was at the Waikiki Shell parking lot but was headed to the beach to go bodyboarding.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced his “Act With Care — Do Not Gather” order Thursday, which will close city parks, including beaches, playgrounds, courts and most park facilities, through midnight Sept. 4 starting as soon as the weekend arrives — 12:01 a.m. Saturday. State parks on Oahu and most parking lots for parks and lookouts will be closed as well.
Running, congregating in large groups and relaxing will be prohibited on parks and beaches.
Over the past week or so, the state Department of Health has reported more than 100 new daily cases more often than not. Prior to July 29, the highest single-day count was 73 new cases.
The current spike in cases has been focused on Oahu, where 148 new cases were reported Thursday. Through the first six days of August, there have been 789 new cases reported on the island, which represent 27% of the total cases that have been reported in the state since March.
Maria Goodwin, who was with friends from work at San Souci State Recreational Park, isn’t sure that closing the parks will do much, but she gets why the move was made.
“I get the overall point of what they’re trying to do. Everything’s for safety for the people of the island,” she said.
Yumi, a grandmother who was at Kapiolani Park watching her grandson during soccer practice, said, “It is what it is,” in response to the announcement. But it’s still disappointing.
“You want (kids) outside. You want them to exercise,” said Yumi, who preferred not to share her last name.
There were two soccer teams practicing at the park Thursday around 4:30 p.m., and the nearby tennis courts were full. Caldwell said team sports will be suspended as well.
Though the order was generally not seen as a surprise, opinions varied on whether banning people from beaches and parks will help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Goodwin, who lives in Kaimuki, is hopeful that the second round of closures will help, but is skeptical because people still will be allowed to gather in other ways.
“I don’t know if closing the parks is going to do it. Everybody’s going to Costco in mobs,” she said. “It’s like, OK I can’t go to the park, distancing and … with my two friends playing soccer, but I can go to Costco and stand with 30 people in an aisle.”
Goodwin believes the first closure of beaches and parks should have been extended a little longer because it would have helped the city better control the coronavirus.
Gov. David Ige’s stay-at-home order in March prohibited activities at beaches and parks for nearly two months on Oahu.
Others, like Jared Miller of Waianae, believe that being outdoors comes with a lower risk of spreading COVID-19.
“I feel like parks and beaches, honestly, are pretty healthy places to do recreation. It’s outdoors. You’re generally not that close to people,” he said.
Miller, who was surfing at Queen’s Beach, said he primarily goes to the beach to surf, an activity that still will be allowed during the closure. Caldwell said that people can still cross beaches to get into the water. Activities like fishing below the high-water mark still will be permitted as well.
Liu believes closing beaches and parks is the right move.
“It’s sad, but we have to protect … the ones who we love. People might not like it, but in the long run, we’re trying to keep our numbers down,” he said.
Caldwell’s impetus for closing down beaches and parks again is to discourage large gatherings.
“At the recommendation of the Department of Health, it became very clear that we need to clamp down as hard as possible on large, uncontrolled gatherings,” Caldwell said.
Liu said those large gatherings are a problem.
“I don’t know if you’ve been to Kaimana lately … Friday nights, Friday evenings, that beach is packed.” he said.