Large gatherings continue as officials warn of more restrictions and a possible shut down

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some mayors have already put restrictions back in place as COVID-19 case numbers rise in Hawaii.

Earlier this week, Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino limited indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. Tents and pavilions, which the mayor says attract gatherings, will not be allowed.

On Oahu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell shut down bars for at least three weeks, and he is also considering banning tents on beaches to prevent large gatherings.

Health officials have urged residents to practice social distancing and to wear a mask while around groups of people who are not part of their close circle.

Now, officials are warning that a statewide shut down could happen again if triple-digit case numbers continue to rise moving forward.

On Saturday, Aug. 1, an unpermitted ‘jump rock contest’ was scheduled to take place at Waimea Bay. By noon, there were hundreds of people gathered in tents around the rock.

Honolulu police showed up just after noon and sent out a verbal warning to beach-goers on the lifeguards PA system.

“This is the Honolulu Police Department, I’ll give you a couple of reminders here, there is no event of the jumping rock today,” an officer said over the PA system. “Anyone that is associated with that, that is an illegal promotion, and you shall be arrested for the COVID violation.”

He continued to remind beach-goers that tents are supposed to be six-feet apart and only 10 people were allowed under a single tent.

Shortly after the announcement, some people started moving their tents further apart.

However, Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green said he saw a similar scene Saturday at Ala Moana Beach Park.

“No one was wearing a mask at Ala Moana–no one,” he said. “There was a lot of activity close to one another and that will mean spread.”

“If we continue on this trajectory, 100 cases and so on, that will necessitate a statewide shut down again to stop the virus, and that’s not something we want to do, so please be careful,” Lt. Gov. Green said.

Thursday evening, July 30, KHON2 spoke with state health director Dr. Bruce Anderson. KHON2 asked if the high number of cases, triple-digit numbers, was attributed to more testing.

Dr. Anderson said it wasn’t.  

“In fact, we’re finding the percentage of tests that are positive are now higher than ever,” he said.

In June and in early July, Dr. Anderson said there was a COVID-positive rate of 1-2% of all tests taken.

He said over the last week of July, COVID-positive rates were at 5-6%.

“So, not only are we doing more testing, but we’re finding that more people are positive than before, and that there is more community spread occurring on Oahu and it is very concerning,” he said.

Dr. Anderson said it’s the asymptomatic people who can potentially spread the disease, especially if they don’t practice social distancing and proper face mask-wearing.

“It’s going to be up to all of us to turn this around and if we don’t, we’re going to end up having to shut down again, I don’t think anyone wants that,” the health director said.

Although Saturday’s COVID-positive numbers dropped to double digits again, Lt. Gov. Green said these next two weeks are crucial.

“If we continue to see these high numbers, we’ll have to get much more serious about our use of beaches, parks, any kind of gatherings, and I know we don’t want to do that because it’s very tough on people,” he said.

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