July 4 during a pandemic: Events are canceled, but beaches won’t be empty

Updated: Jun. 29, 2020 at 5:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many fireworks displays and other activities marking Independence Day have been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the U.S. Coast Guard and other first responders are still preparing for an active holiday weekend.

The hot summer weather, reopened beaches and south shore swells have already drawn people to the shoreline in Waikiki.

“I was out just this past weekend,” said Bradley McNell, with the Coast Guard. “A pretty local crowd, but a really heavy presence, even with the lack of tourism.”

It’s also been crowded at Ala Moana Regional Park.

“We’ve had numbers anywhere from eight thousand to 11 thousand on a day,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Bill Ingram. “On the weekends, they’re usually in the 10- to 12,000 range.”

The 4th of July increases those numbers ― and the chances for accidents ― on the water.

The Coast Guard said it will be on the lookout for boating under the influence.

“We can put a $5,000 monetary fine or up to one year in jail if you’re caught boating under the influence, and it really puts yourself as the operator, and other mariners at a high risk for injury or death,” said McNell.

The Coast Guard will also be looking for overloaded vessels, although under coronavirus rules, the state says commercial and recreational boaters can only have ten people aboard -- more if they’re from the same household.

At Ala Moana, lifeguards said their main concern is canopies and tents being set up on the beach, blocking the view of lifeguards.

“We can just ask the public to be mindful of that, and to set up far enough back on the beach so that we have a full, clear vision of the ocean,” said Ocean Safety lifeguard Keoni Taniyama. “Then we can do our jobs and keep everybody safe.”

He and Ingram also stressed that parents should always be within six feet of their children if they are in the water.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said three-day holiday weekend rules against alcohol on the Kaneohe Bay sandbar will be in effect.

Meanwhile, will there be a “floatilla” this year? Authorities said they haven’t heard if the event off Waikiki Beach ― notorious for its drinking and litter ― will happen this year.

As for social distancing, “We don’t enforce the rules, but we do go up and remind people, and the intent is to have people come down here, have fun,” said Ingram.

“Make it safe for everyone.”

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