HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell extended the city’s stay-at-home order through May 31, but with modifications. One of those adjustments include a partial reopening of the city’s 300+ parks.
They reopened Saturday morning at 5 a.m. for limited exercise activities.
Reopening the parks, he said, is the first step toward a gradual lifting of restrictions.
“We’re taking the first steps to actually get them (Oahu residents) back to work,” Caldwell said, at a news conference Tuesday. “We are trying to get people back to work as soon as possible but to do it in a way that we don’t have to retreat again."
Here’s what you can and can’t do at city parks:
- Parks are only open for running, walking or biking — no group exercises.
- Gatherings are still banned, the mayor said.
- Group sports such as basketball and volleyball isn’t allowed.
- Jungle gyms are still off limits.
- Practice social distancing and remain six feet apart.
- Pools will also continue to be closed, and Hanauma Bay is remaining closed.
Caldwell said the decision to reopen parks came after consultation with a committee of medical advisers. He said the phased-in reopening will happen with a ramping up of testing to ensure new COVID-19 cases are identified quickly and isolated.
“People have been cooped up. They feel anxious,” he said. “If they could see some light at the end of the tunnel, go into our beautiful parks ... and exercise, it will make a tremendous difference.”
There was a caveat: “If we see it start to spike up (in cases) we have to slow down," Caldwell added.
Additional restrictions could be lifted in the coming weeks.
Additionally, the city will be purchasing 10,000 coronavirus test kits and delivering them to community health centers for free. The centers will also be provided with more protective gear.
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In recent days, Hawaii has continued to see the number of confirmed coronavirus cases decline overall.
On Wednesday, Hawaii saw six new cases statewide, three each on Oahu and the Big Island.
On Monday and Tuesday, Oahu reported no new cases.
But there were also two new COVID-19 fatalities reported Tuesday, one each on Oahu and Maui, in a grim reminder that while the daily case count from the disease is on the decline many remain very ill.
The fatalities brought the state’s death toll from the virus to 12.
About two-thirds of Hawaii’s 592 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began have been on Oahu — a fact that Caldwell has underscored as proof that a gradual lifting of restrictions is safer than an immediate one.
The CDC agrees, and has sought to give states guidance on a phased-in approach to reopening economies.
Meanwhile, the governor has said he’s also working with mayors on how to allow businesses, schools, and — perhaps trickiest — the tourist industry, to resume operations.
HMSA CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi, an adviser to the governor, said at a legislative briefing Monday that Hawaii was about a month away from having the systems in place needed to begin restarting the economy in phases.
Those systems include the ability to conduct screening, test people who might have the virus and tracing people that came into contact with the carriers, as well as isolating infected people.
This story will be updated.