State shutting down parks, commercial tours and more as residents, visitors continue to disregard new closures

Coronavirus

State Parks have been closed for four days now but some people are ignoring the signs and warnings.

On Friday evening, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced they are closing all commercial ocean and trail tours.

On Friday, the state department of health announced its first two cases of community spread in Hawaii.

In a news release, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case announced that the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) would suspend all commercial operator permits including tour operators, surf and SUP schools, sight-seeing, whale-watching, and dinner cruises and any commercial operation in state ocean waters, until further notice.

According to the release, the suspension is consistent with Governor Ige’s supplemental emergency proclamation, Hawai‘i Dept. of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

“Many people are not practicing the recommended social distancing protocols, so it’s become necessary for us to take these extraordinary steps to help encourage the six-foot separation between people recommended by Gov. Ige, the CDC and our experts at the DOH. It is hoped that every commercial permit holder and all local residents and visitors will abide by these closures in the spirit of flattening the spread of the coronavirus,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case stated in the release.

The DLNR Division of State Parks announced this afternoon that it is shuttering all parks, statewide. “Unfortunately,” Curt Cottrell, State Parks Administrator said, “many, many people are simply ignoring gates and signs and choosing to put themselves and any others close-by at risk of contracting COVID-19. This unprecedented step is being taken in the interest of public health and safety and we really encourage people to find alternate activities that do not expose themselves and others to the virus.”

The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) has closed all commercial tours on State trails and wildlife sanctuaries. Any vendors with tours already booked will be refunded.

The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) said they are receiving reports of people continuing to enter Diamond Head State Monument and other closed parks. “This is not only dangerous in places like the outer slopes and crater rim of Diamond Head, but violators are subject to being cited or arrested,” the release stated.

Case said, “We are all in this together.  It is an enormous inconvenience and upsetting to the kind of lifestyle we enjoy in Hawai‘i. The faster we stop the spread of COVID-19 by everyone practicing social distancing, the quicker we’re likely to see our lives return to normal.”

Also effective on Friday, diners on Oahu and Maui County will not be able to dine-in at restaurants, bars, food trucks or food courts. Both counties have also shut down nightclubs and bars.

Shopping centers have changed hours, and several stores within malls have decided to close indefinitely.

On Oahu, beach parks have been closed, but people are still packing the beaches.

Tour vans were seen dropping off visitors at Waimea Bay Beach Park on Friday and then continued to move the safety cones out of the way.

Those who continue to disregard signs and closures could face arrest and fines.

“We know it’s an inconvenience to the public but given the situation in the state and in our nation today it’s the prudent thing to do and we would hope people would voluntarily comply. If people don’t voluntarily comply again they’ll be subject to enforcement actions if they’re caught in these areas,” said Jason Redulla, chief enforcement officer for DLNR.

“The fact of the matter is, violating the state park closure is a petty misdemeanor it is a ‘jailable’ offense and therefore people can be arrested for it if they decide to violate,” he continued.

“We will be frequently checking all the closed facilities that DLNR is responsible for, not just the state parks, but our certain boating facilities and other DLNR managed facilities that are subject to closure right now.” 

The DOH said now with community spread, people need to be practicing social distancing, and if people continue to disregard the rule, the state does have the power to shut down beaches.

The closure of beach parks has also left Honolulu lifeguards to work via ‘mobile patrol,’ and with a rising north swell, Ocean Safety is encouraging people to avoid the shoreline this weekend. Lifeguards will not be stationed at towers for the time being.

On Maui, gyms, public gathering spots, places of worship and theaters are also closed.

Other businesses remain open, but Mayor Michael Victorino is urging residents to follow the 10 people social distancing guidelines.

Mayor Victorino said he will discuss whether to close Maui County beach parks on Monday.

At 9 p.m. Friday, the island of Kauai will be under curfew until 5 a.m.

According to Mayor Derek Kawakami, every person on the Garden Isle must remain on their property or at their residence or they will risk fines and possible jail time. There are exceptions including people heading to and from work.

Kauai officials announced they too will switch to take out and delivery at restaurants beginning on Saturday.

Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim said it is up to restaurants and bars if they want to do take out or delivery.

The Hawaii Island legislative delegation sent Mayor Kim a letter this afternoon urging him to take more actions.

The letter reads:

To protect the residents of the County of Hawaiʻi and the long-term stability of our island economy, we implore you to immediately order the shut-down of non-essential county government operations and the sheltering-in-place of all people throughout the County of Hawai‘i.

As Mayor of the County of Hawai’i, we strongly urge you to take the following immediate actions through an Emergency Proclamation and Emergency Rule(s):

Institute an immediate countywide shut down for the next fifteen (15) days.

Order all people in the County of Hawai‘i to shelter-in-place for the next 15 days and coordinate with the Joint Incident Center under the command of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency Director/Adjutant General Kenneth Hara to immediately use his authority under the March 16, 2020, Emergency Supplementary Proclamation by Governor Ige to take all necessary steps and required means to ensure that the supply chain for basic necessities — such as food, medicine, water, communications, gasoline, cargo and public safety throughout the County of Hawaiʻi — is secure.

Request Director/Adjutant General Hara to secure and requisition any needed hospital and medical supplies that are necessary to assist with the coming need to treat individuals due to COVID-19, at all available Hawaiʻi Island medical facilities.

In coordination with Governor Ige, order the quarantine of all travelers arriving from outside Hawaiʻi at the Hilo and Kona International Airports for a minimum of 15 days.

Prohibit all non-essential inter-island and out-of-state travel from Hawaiʻi Island.

In coordination with Governor Ige, require the immediate closure of all public and private schools, daycare centers, preschools, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Hawaiʻi Community College and Hawaiʻi Community College Pālamanui.

Require the immediate closure of all County facilities and workspaces, and send home all non-essential County of Hawaiʻi personnel for the duration of the shut down.

Limit County of Hawai‘i work to only essential personnel, provided they are equipped with the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adhere to spatial distancing guidelines and preventive measures as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Hawaiʻi Department of Health.

As Mayor, you are the only person who has the direct authority to institute these actions. As state legislators, we passed and continue to support the delegated authority provided to the counties under Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 127, which grants you, as Mayor, the power to act in emergency situations such as the unprecedented one we face today.

Mayor Kim said he has issued proclamations to keep Hawaii Island residents safe. He added that he does not have the authority to shut down schools, or restrict travel in and out of Hawaii Island.

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