City closes parks, attractions as state prepares for broader shutdown

Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 12:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Police officers enforced closures of city parks and other attractions Thursday as the island prepared for a broader shutdown that include a temporary ban on dining in at restaurants and bars islandwide for at least 15 days.

The measures are part of growing efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii.

Here’s a look at what’s been done so far:

  • All non-essential city and state employees are staying home and working remotely, and businesses are being urged to have their workers do the same.
  • The governor and several mayors have asked visitors to stay away from the state. It’s a message that hasn’t been uniformly heeded. On Wednesday, Waikiki was far from empty.
  • On Kauai, the mayor has instituted a nighttime curfew.
  • Maui’s mayor has ordered bars, clubs and attractions to shutter and eateries to close inside seating. He’s also closed gyms and recreation facilities and urged people to stay home.
  • Hawaii public schools are closed through at least April 6. Universities and private schools are also on break or having students work remotely.

On Oahu, the closure of dine-in services begins Friday at 8:30 a.m. and runs for 15 days.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the efforts Wednesday, reiterating that essential city services would continue. He also said that he had no plans to institute a curfew.

Caldwell signed a supplemental proclamation to close dine-in areas at restaurants and bars.

“I know it’s going to have huge impact not only on the owners of these restaurants,” Caldwell said, adding that the efforts are aimed at protecting workers and the broader community.

“This is a mandate, an order to do so."

In a statement, Police Chief Susan Ballard said establishments that refuse to comply with the order will face citations, fines or even arrest.

“We really think that our business owners are conscientious and that they will be responsible and comply on their own,” Ballard said.

While some restaurants scramble to move toward take-out and delivery only, some bars don’t have that option.

“We just don’t know what to do. Everything is hitting us as once. Yesterday was probably the hardest day of my life,” said Danny Chang, owner of Wang Chung’s Karaoke Bar.

Chang laid off all eight of his employees Tuesday night.

"We all know what the right thing for us to do socially, but at the same time, financially, it’s such a struggle. You had a job one day and you don’t have a job the next day,” Chang said.

Chang said he is trying to remain positive and creative and explore take-out options. But the reality is his business may not survive.

“Ultimately, we won’t have the cash flow to be able to pay next month’s rent,” he said.

Also Wednesday, Caldwell announced that all city parks are closing through April 30. Also closed: The Honolulu Zoo, botanical gardens, golf courses, city gyms and other gathering places.

The city previously shuttered larger venues, including the Blaisdell Center, and canceled large events.

But other services continue uninterrupted, including all emergency services, the city bus, permitting and driver’s licensing (by appointment only).

Caldwell said that the closures were put in place based on new CDC recommendations, which say gatherings should be limited to 10 people or fewer.

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