Dozens protested and sign waved in front of Honolulu Hale this afternoon in support of resuming outdoor organized sports on Oahu.
About 80 or so people gathered along the sidewalks near or at the intersection of Punchbowl Street and King Street as a growing number of people are now calling for permission to play outdoor sports again.
Non-college games, along with practices involving more than a handful of people, have been prohibited for almost as long as the COVID-19 outbreak has affected the island, and supporters of the cause argue the long hiatus is affecting the mental and physical health of people of all ages who participate in organized sports.
“It’s mental health … it’s physical health for both kids and adults,” said Sergio Bolioli, president of the Major Island Soccer Organization and organizer of the protest.
He said if anyone, such as college athletes, can play sports, then everyone else should be allowed to as well.
Thousands of others have already signed an online petition to get Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. David Ige to understand how important outdoor sports is to the well-being of children.
Many of today’s demonstrators are student athletes themselves who would be practicing and playing in games right now if permitted.
Maxx Waynant, 17, is a senior at Kalaheo High School and has been limited to practicing soccer in his backyard, sometimes “one-on-one, with a couple of my friends, passing around. … Nothing where there’s too much people.”
Under Caldwell’s current tiered reopening strategy for Oahu, organized team sports outside that require permits won’t be allowed to resume until the city reaches Tier 4 — the most relaxed and most difficult-to-reach tier.
One of the requirements for reaching Tier 4 is that the city has a seven-day average of fewer than 20 new COVID-19 cases per day. It is currently over 70 new cases per day and is on an upward trend.
Oahu hasn’t fallen under, let alone averaged, 20 new daily cases since late July.
Bolioli’s goal is to have outdoor team sports moved to Tier 2, where Oahu is at currently.
The city administration said outdoor sports was placed in Tier 4 because of its risk of uncontrolled and unmasked gatherings.
“While we wish all sports could resume immediately, limiting the size and frequency of large gatherings is proven to be the most effective way combat the spread of COVID-19, along with wearing face coverings, and physically distancing,” said Alexander Zannes, Caldwell’s communications director, in a statement. “Team sports were determined to be an activity where the risk of uncontrolled and unmasked gatherings was high, and was therefore placed in tier 4 of Oahu’s reopening plan.”
City officials have said previously that uncontrolled gatherings led to the intense spike in COVID-19 cases that the city experienced throughout August and is recovering from still.
Bolioli said COVID-19 rules would be easier to follow and enforce for organized sports played outside and said there has been no evidence that contribute widely to the spread of the virus on Oahu.
The city’s reopening strategy would make outdoor sports one of the final activities to resume on the Oahu in any capacity, along with possibly bars and night clubs, which are labeled as “to be determined” under Tier 4.