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Oahu beaches, parks and team sports will be halted once more

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                There won’t be much life on the beach beginning 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when the mandated closures begin. Beachgoers were seen near the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki on Thursday.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    There won’t be much life on the beach beginning 12:01 a.m. Saturday, when the mandated closures begin. Beachgoers were seen near the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki on Thursday.

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                As the sun set on Thursday, surfers exited the ocean near the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki. The spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell closing all parks and beaches.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    As the sun set on Thursday, surfers exited the ocean near the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki. The spike in COVID-19 cases has resulted in Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell closing all parks and beaches.

The shutdown is back.

Oahu parks and beaches, which reopened in May, will be closed again, starting 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The worsening spread of COVID-19 on Oahu — including 152 new cases and two deaths reported Thursday — convinced city and state officials to bring back a ban on outdoor activities.

Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the new order, which they call “Act With Care — Do Not Gather,” at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

It mandates that all 303 city-run parks and 18 state-operated sites on the island will be closed.

People will be allowed to “traverse” in and out of the ocean if they are engaging in water activities, but no activities will be allowed in parks or on beaches, Caldwell said.

“We need to clamp down as hard as possible on large, uncontrolled gatherings,” Caldwell said.

Running, jogging, walking and biking through the parks won’t be allowed.

The closures include all pools, playgrounds, courts, fields, exercise equipment, dog parks, skate parks, the Koko Crater tramway and the People’s Open Markets.

Previously issued park permits for camping, outdoor team sports, picnics and commercial activities will be canceled and refunds issued. All fall Parks and Recreation classes are canceled.

The order runs from 12:01 a.m. Saturday through midnight Sept. 4, essentially the next four weeks, although the end date may change depending on the circumstances, city officials said.

Those allowed activities include swimming, surfing, diving, solo paddling, fishing (below the high-water mark only, and not in groups) and Native Hawaiian gathering practices as allowed by law.

“But in the water, not in the parks and not on the beaches,” Caldwell said.

“Stand alone” comfort stations and outdoor showers will be open — including to the homeless and others in the public, but those attached to other park buildings such as gymnasiums and recreation rooms will be closed. The ones that are open will follow regular park closure hours.

The parking lots at parks and beaches will be closed. The only exceptions are the ones in the four parks where the Elections Division has set up ballot dropoff boxes. They will be open through 7 p.m. Saturday.

Parking lots for lookouts, including Diamond Head, Lanai and Halona Blowhole, also will be closed.

Also closed: tennis and other play courts, hiking trails, campgrounds, botanical gardens and community gardens.

The Koko Head Shooting Complex will be open and follow its regular schedule. Archery ranges in other park locations will be closed.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard said 160 additional officers islandwide will be on the road working overtime, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, “doing strategic enforcement” of coronavirus-related rules. “They will be responding to complaints, as well as pro-active patrols, especially where we see large gatherings,” she said.

“Enforcement’s going to be the key here,” Ballard said. Starting 10 a.m. Sunday, the public will be able to call in a COVID enforcement complaint to an HPD hotline (723-3900). This also can be done online at hpdcovidenforce@honolulu.gov.

“If you see any violations of the emergency proclamation, we’re asking you to please report them and the police will respond,” Ballard said.

She noted that the state is still hoping to open up to out-of-state visitors starting Sept. 1. “I’m just begging you, please, we’ve got 28 days,” Ballard said. “Let’s show them we can do this and when we reopen, let’s follow the rules.”

While HPD officers have been issuing more warnings, that will change, the chief said. “At this point we’re probably going to do very few warnings — it’s going to be citations or arrests.”

The new order extends beyond government-run parks.

Some indoor commercial activities, including bowling alleys, arcades and mini-golf facilities, will be closed, as will private swimming pools and tennis courts. Theaters and museums, however, will be allowed to stay open.

Gyms and fitness centers can stay open, provided social distancing guidelines are followed, but group classes will be prohibited, Caldwell said.

Asked why beaches are closed while gyms are open, Caldwell said it has to do with the types of activity associated with each destination. “The issue is with large, uncontrolled gatherings that we see outdoors for the most part,” he said, pointing out that the city has reports of more than 50-100 people under a tent. “Hard to control these gatherings,” he said.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said the state has been able to “identify a number of individuals who attended beach parties and other events at beach parks … we think that’s one of the most likely sources of exposure for a lot of the cases where we aren’t able to identify any other sources.”

Public and private golf courses will be limited to procedures established in the Hawaii Golf Phase One policy.

Previously announced mandates remain in place. Bars are one week into an order to close for three weeks. Restaurants and retailers will remain open.

Social gatherings — either indoor or outdoor — must be limited to no more than 10 individuals. The one exception is churches and other houses of worship, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. All individuals are expected to wear face coverings when outside of their homes.

Caldwell warned that a full shutdown of the island may be forthcoming if the numbers do not improve. “If that’s what it takes to protect the public health and safety of the people of Oahu,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re watching very closely.”

For the latest orders and proclamations, go to: www.honolulu.gov/mayor/proclamations-orders-and-rules.html.

The state park closures on Oahu include all waysides, lookouts, scenic shorelines, recreation areas and monuments. Camping is suspended and includes Ahupua’a o Kahana State Park, Keaiwa State Recreation Area, Malaekahana State Recreation Area (both the for the Kalanai and Kahuku sections) and Sand Island State Recreation Area. For more information: dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2020/08/06/nr20-114/

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