County, state beach parks to close Friday as virus cases surge on Big Island

  • Mayor Harry Kim

  • Scores of people made it to Kua Bay for Memorial Day. However, with COVID-19 cases surging on Hawaii Island, Mayor Harry Kim has ordered the closure of all state and county beach parks for two weeks starting Friday. Gov. David Ige approved the mayor’s amendments to Emergency Rule No. 11 on Wednesday afternoon. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today file photo)

With COVID-19 cases on Hawaii Island continuing to surge, Mayor Harry Kim announced Wednesday that all county and state beach parks will close for two weeks starting Friday.

The closures are being implemented to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus — which sickened 418 and contributed to the deaths of three veterans — by limiting gatherings starting Friday, through the Labor Day holiday weekend, until Sept. 18, Kim said.

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On Wednesday, state health officials for a ninth straight day announced a double-digit increase in cases with 34 new positive COVID-19 cases. Of the known cases, 220 were considered “active.”

Kim said Department of Health contact tracing has shown that large gatherings to be a key source of the virus’s spread. To date, several clusters have been linked to social gatherings, including a funeral service on July 25 for Kaulana Pakele and most recently a party in Milolii (see related story).

“We are at a critical stage, and we must stop the spread of the virus,” said Kim. “Beach parks can only be used to access the ocean, exercising, fishing and gathering food, and using the bathrooms and shower facilities.”

Beach and coastal parks may be used for direct access to and from the ocean in order to engage in exercise, fishing and gathering of food, according to the mayor’s amended Emergency Rule No. 11 approved Wednesday by Gov. David Ige. Park restrooms and showers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

The rule explicitly prohibits the use of pavilions, barbecues, temporary canopies, pop-up tents, tarps and similar shade devices and tables, hibachis, coolers, and other items commonly associated with picnicking and gatherings. In addition, all commercial operations and activities at the sites are prohibited. Camping is prohibited and all existing permits have been canceled.

At Kailua Park, also known as Old Kona Airport, in Kailua-Kona, the restrictions only apply to the area makai of the runway.

Hilo’s Liliuokalani Gardens will remain open. However, the use of pavilions, barbecues, temporary canopies, pop-up tents, tarps and similar shad devices are not allowed, and tables, hibachis, coolers, and other items commonly associated with picnicking and gatherings is prohibited.

“Everybody has kuleana to end the spread of COVID-19 on Hawaii Island, and by rallying as a community we can beat this,” Kim said.

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The closure of state and county beach and shoreline parks effective Friday follows the county earlier this week announcing the closure of Waipio Valley. The county said the closure is necessary due to the anticipation of large crowd gatherings for the Labor Day holiday weekend, combined with the lack of resources to enforce COVID-19 safe physical distancing practices.

The access road will be closed to the public from 7 a.m. Friday until 7 a.m. Tuesday. Local traffic will be allowed to pass through, one vehicle at a time.

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