Officials worry large gatherings over Easter weekend could drive up COVID cases

Health officials wait to see how the Easter weekend will impact COVID case counts

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Authorities got an uptick in complaints about illegal gatherings over the long Easter weekend.

Some feel it was a mix of complacency over COVID, pandemic fatigue and mixed messaging over what’s allowed.

The DLNR says state land enforcement officers got a report from the Hawaii State Fusion Center Saturday morning of boats with large groups of people leaving Kewalo Basin. It’s not clear if officers took any enforcement action.

Across the state, it seemed as if many relaxed their safeguards. Mask-less parties on boats in Honolulu were seen along with crowded beaches in Kapalua, Maui. Churches also held Easter services, doing their best to adapt safety measures.

“The majority of complaints that I received were churches and of course the large family gatherings,” said Mel Rapozo.

“I think a lot of people are feeling more comfortable now, got vaccinated and are heading out. My church is still doing online services,” he added.

Rapozo says people are becoming complacent. He worries about Kauai re-opening to visitors with pre-travel tests Monday and mixed messages from Hawaii’s leaders.

“You’ve got a Governor and Lt. Governor, in my opinion, are putting out mixed messages and people are confused and gives them incentive to let their guard down because it’s not that bad,” said Rapozo.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi cited what he called ‘rogue events’ like a wedding in Kahuku with 700 people, the West Side concert parties and a demonstration in Kapiolani Park.

“Those gatherings none of which have been permitted or approved,” he said.

The Hawaii State Fusion Center under the Department of Defense says it got six complaints over the weekend and many over the same issue. There were five complaints on Oahu of illegal gatherings on land and on the ocean and one complaint on Hawaii island. Those complaints were then passed onto HPD, Hawaii County police, Coast Guard and Harbor Police.

“That’s what the rules are to stop this disease, keep us healthy and stop us from dying. That’s the objective of this and it’s surprising that many people are not following the rules,” said Paul Epstein, director of Hawaii State Fusion Center.

Epstein says if you know of an illegal gathering that’s going to happen, you can file a complaint by emailing HSFC@hawaii.gov. Illegal gatherings actively happening should be reported by calling 911.

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