A gradual reopening of Hawaii County businesses, parks and community facilities moved another step forward Wednesday, with Mayor Harry Kim announcing his latest set of rules.
The rules follow Gov. David Ige’s proclamation Tuesday that the state has been successful flattening the COVID-19 curve, making it safe to reopen some facilities — provided precautions such as masks, physical distancing and prohibitions against congregating remain in effect.
“Businesses are allowed to start but they’re not required to start,” Ige said Wednesday.
The rules take effect immediately.
Kim spent two hours before the County Council on Wednesday, describing the steps being taken to ensure there’s no relapse back into the virus if strict measures are lifted. Later, he announced his fourth rule.
The mayor said he’d prefer to allow business reopenings not by the type they are but by how prepared they are to comply with safety rules. In the end, he thought it best to track the governor’s proclamation in his rule, which had to go to Ige for approval.
“We felt we should all be in some uniformity to minimize confusion,” Kim said. “Hawaii County made a policy of little differences.”
The local rule allows the following businesses to reopen, starting immediately: bicycle shop sales and repairs, bookstores, jewelry shops and repairs, pet grooming and boarding, shops that sell exercise apparel and equipment, surf and swimming equipment shop sales and repair, automated service providers that do not require human contact, such as automated car washes and private golf courses can open with appropriate safeguards.
Safeguards include social distancing, masks for employees and customers and providing hand sanitizer.
A long list of businesses allowed under the governor’s seventh supplementary proclamation will also be allowed to reopen. They include childcare services for essential workers, educational institutions and furniture stores, but not apparel stores, hairdressers, barbers or mani-pedi places.
In addition, real estate services are allowed, provided that open houses and real estate caravans are prohibited and florist shops are allowed for pick-up and delivery services.
Bed and breakfasts, short-term vacation rentals and time-shares must cease operations except for renting to first responders, medical personnel or workers in critical trades, under the rule.
The Hilo Municipal Golf Course will be allowed to reopen Monday.
Hilo Bayfront Trails, Kaumana Lani Park, Machado Acres Park, Waiohinu Park, Clarence Lum Wok Park and Walua Trail will be opened on a limited basis for active exercise such as walking, jogging and running.
The rule adds Carlsmith Beach Park, Richardson Ocean Park and Mahukona Wharf to the list of parks already open for direct access to the ocean from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m. along with restroom facilities: Kahaluu Beach Park, Magic Sands Beach Park, Waiaha Bay Beach Park, Kawaihae Canoe Area, Honolii Beach Park, Kaipalaoa Landing Beach Park, Bayfront Beach Park, Reed’s Bay Beach Park, Liliuokalani Gardens.
No gathering, sitting, lying or loitering on the beach is allowed under the rule.
Numerous other county facilities will be open for use of restrooms only, including Old Airport Park, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’ve been trying to reopen our parks in a way that doesn’t invite public gatherings,” Kim said. “These parks are the ones that we really wanted to open as soon as possible. … These are mostly just walking parks; it’s counterproductive to keep them closed.”
Violators of Rule 4 may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or one year imprisonment, or both. The rule remains effective throughout the pandemic emergency, or until terminated sooner by order of the mayor.
Kim said the county will closely monitor for any flare up of active cases, and will be ready to close things back down as needed.
He and Chung praised the public’s patience in working through the stages of lockdown and complying with emergency edicts to such an extent that it kept positive cases low. Only one person with the virus was hospitalized on Hawaii Island and stayed only overnight. There have been no deaths on the island attributed to COVID-19.
“We’ve done a really good job and the community has rallied behind this,” Chung said. “By and large, this community has been really patient and they’ve abided by all the rules.”
Meanwhile Wednesday, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced seven state parks on Hawaii Island would reopen in a limited capacity after being closed for more than a month in accordance with an emergency proclamation issued by Ige in March.
According to the DLNR announcement, MacKenzie State Recreation Area, Manuka State Wayside and Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area are open for beach or hiking purposes, with parking access reopened to the public. However, all day use facilities at these parks — as well as the Waialea Beach section of Hapuna Beach — will remain closed.
Four other parks — Kekaha Kai State Park, Kiholo State Park Reserve, Lava Tree State Monument and Kalopa State Recreation Area — also opened, but parking will remain closed for the time being.
DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case said the department consulted with the state Department of Health to determine which parks should be reopened. Certain popular parks with main attractions that are lookout points, such as Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu, concentrate crowds into small areas, and will consequently not be reopened for the time being.
However, Case said, the DOH encourages people to take outdoor exercise whenever possible.
“As long as people are on a trail moving past each other, even if they’re within 6 feet of each other and not wearing a mask, that quick pass outdoors … we would characterize these people as low risk (for spreading COVID-19) at most and, more likely, no risk,” Case said, citing the DOH.
While county and state parks are reopening, national parks are remaining cautious.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane issued a statement Wednesday confirming that there is no current timeline to reopen the park, although the park is following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities.
Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter Michael Brestovansky contributed to this report.