Hawaii Reimposes Restrictions as Cases Rise
A surge of new COVID-19 cases on Oahu has led the state government to reimpose restrictions on the island.
Hawaii had controlled the virus for months, but as people began to gather more, cases have risen, with 152 new cases statewide reported on Thursday. All but four of those cases were on Oahu.
The recent surge in cases means the likelihood of Hawaii opening up to tourists who test negative for the virus on Sept. 1 is looking more remote.
That is bad news for the surf industry, which is heavily invested in the state, with many brands having a large, tourist-focused retail footprint.
It’s also worrisome for the Hawaii economy overall. Tourism is the largest single source of private capital for Hawaii’s economy, and visitors spend $18 billion a year in the state, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. That equates to an average of $48 million in spending per day.
Hawaii’s unemployment rate has soared, and many believe the extra weekly $600 in federal unemployment benefits has helped to prop up the Hawaii economy until now. Those benefits expired last week, and the U.S. Congress is still debating over financial aid resuming.
In the recent spike in cases, Oahu is the hot spot.
Starting Saturday, Oahu parks, beaches, skateparks, dog parks, tennis courts, beach and park parking lots and playgrounds will be closed until Sept. 4.
People can still go in and out of the ocean and surf, swim, paddle and fish, but are not allowed to congregate on the beach. Residents are also not allowed to exercise on the sand, and hiking trails will be closed.
Stores and restaurants can remain open, but officials warned a full lockdown could return if trends don’t improve.
The big problem has been large outdoor gatherings of 50 to 100 people on Oahu, officials said. Police on the island warned they will be issuing citations and arresting those who break the rules going forward.
To protect the neighboring islands, the state is bringing back the 14-day quarantine restrictions on inter-island travel.
Governor David Ige said he will make an announcement in about a week on the status of tourists possibly returning to Hawaii next month.