Lt. Gov. Josh Green is asking city and state officials to change Oahu’s latest stay-at-home order to allow residents living in the same household to engage in outdoor activities together.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is opening parks, beaches and hiking trails today, but only for solo activities, including reading, meditating, eating, jogging and sitting on the beach alone. Caldwell extended other elements of the island’s stay-at-home, work-from-home order through Sept. 23.
Saying you can only take part in outdoor activities if you are alone is not sensible and should be loosened for public safety, Green said.
“The part of the order that is a head-scratcher of course is this idea that people can’t go out in groups of more than one to the beach or to the beach park or hiking. That’s not based on science or medicine,” Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii. “It’s unsafe to send people out hiking by themselves. The same thing goes if you’re swimming, if you’re in the ocean. I don’t think that order is smart.”
A representative for Caldwell didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Caldwell said the reason people living in the same house are not allowed to be together in public parks, beaches and hiking trails is it would be too difficult for law enforcement to determine whether groups were from the same household.
The city is trying to “create very simple, bright-line enforcement measures” so Oahu doesn’t return to out-of-control gatherings that caused cases to explode this summer, Caldwell said Tuesday, when announcing the extended stay-at-home order.
Green argued that parents should be able to do outdoor activities with their children.
Green has been critical of Caldwell’s COVID-19 policies before, which could be seen as an attack on a political rival. Green and Caldwell are expected to face each other in the 2022 governor’s race.
“While I understand enforcement is of great concern, it is not practical to expect individuals, particularly those with children, to enjoy beaches and hiking trails on their own,” he said. “People are and have been under tremendous stress and deserve to utilize beaches and hiking trails for their physical, emotional and mental health.
“We don’t want to use the word ‘families’ necessarily,” Green added. “You could have your aunties in a different household and they are in a different risk zone and they could not have the same bubble. I’m not trying to undermine (the city’s) main premise that we have to keep the numbers down for another two weeks, but I do think that a big part of this is compliance and getting people to accept what we’re doing and to make it work without too much pain.”
Kaimuki resident Rudy Tulonghari agreed that the latest mandate doesn’t make sense.
“Mainly I’m thinking about families with young children being that most of them are not in school. They need to get their exercise as well. You can’t expect these kids at that age to be able to monitor themselves at the park,” he said. “What could’ve been done to accommodate Mayor Caldwell’s mandate is maybe have one adult and up to two children max. The main thing he was looking for was to prevent large social gatherings. I can understand it’s hard to tell a cluster of people being from the same household, but maybe having something where one parent and two children together is probably easier to manage.”
But Honolulu management consultant Melvin Sakurai said loosening restrictions will make enforcement impractical.
“This smells of being a pure political play. Solo is extremely easy to enforce. There’s no question about what’s permitted and how it will be enforced. Allow family and keiki as Green suggests and everything is literally out the window,” he said. “Rather than making things self-evidently clear, what Green is proposing creates more ambiguity, a heavier and more onerous and intrusive enforcement burden and yet another side-door for a third devastating spike.”
Hawaii reported three more coronavirus deaths on Oahu and 100 new infections statewide Wednesday, bringing the state’s totals since the beginning of the pandemic to 91 fatalities and 10,123 COVID-19 cases.
Health officials said the latest three coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu were all men with underlying medical conditions, two of them 60-69 years old, and the third between 70 and 79 years old. The Health Department said Wednesday it is “aware of six additional deaths associated with COVID- 19 at the Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo,” but are waiting for medical records to confirm the deaths as coronavirus- related. Hawaii County Civil Defense confirmed that a total of 10 people with COVID-19 on the Big Island have died, all of them at the veterans home.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll has surpassed 190,500. There are 6,912 infections considered active cases statewide, and a total of 3,120 patients now classified by health officials as released from isolation, or about 31% of those infected.