×

Victorino wants beach exercise to be allowed

Mayor reaching out to Ige to allow running, walking on beaches

Maui Police Dept. officers patrol Kihei’s Keawakapu Beach on Saturday morning on the last day before Hawaii Governor David Ige’s temporary ban on walking, jogging and other exercises on beaches was set to begin. Maui County has asked for exercise to be allowed. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino on Sunday continued to reach out to Gov. David Ige to allow beach exercise after Ige on Friday issued emergency rule updates that closed all beaches statewide to running, walking and any activity other than gaining access to the ocean in an effort to further the spread of the coronavirus.

Initially Victorino on Friday said the county would “vigorously enforce” the decision beginning Sunday, but on Saturday, in a letter to Ige, Victorino asked for reconsideration. He sought a “favorable response” as soon as Sunday.

“While I do not support stationary activity such as sitting and reading, or sunbathing on the beach, I wholeheartedly support walking and running on the beaches,” Victorino wrote in the letter. “These activities, provided that social distancing is adhered to, allow our residents a form of physical exercise that is vital to good health.”

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, county spokesman Chris Sugidono said: “The mayor was unable to reach the governor (Sunday). We hope to have some of our questions answered and resolve our concerns regarding beach activity in Maui County.”

“The mayor would like to continue to allow all active exercise on our beaches in Maui County,” Sugidono added.

Beach walkers enjoy Keawakapu Beach’s long stretch of sand Saturday.  The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

He said police continued to enforce emergency rules, but it was unclear if any citations written Sunday involved people violating the state emergency rule updates, as the circumstances related to police citations Sunday were not immediately available.

A spokesperson for Ige could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.

Also on Sunday, Maui County saw another COVID-19 related death, bringing the county total to four. The death was an adult male from Washington state, whose age range was between 40 to 59, according to the state Department of Health.

The man had no previous medical conditions but had a history of travel. He had been hospitalized for an extended period in serious condition at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

The death brought the state death total to 10. The other six deaths were on Oahu.

On Sunday, six new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state. The state total is now 580 cases.

Two of those new cases were on Maui, bringing the county total to 106.

Oahu had three new cases for a total of 385; Hawaii island had one new case with 62 total and Kauai held steady at 21 cases. Molokai’s total also remains at two and there are no cases reported on Lanai.

Meanwhile, three additional people are under investigation as being potentially associated with a cluster of positive COVID-19 cases at Maui Memorial, the health department said Sunday.

The department’s investigation at the hospital continues and it appears the outbreak may have begun with a health care worker who reported to work while ill. A total of 45 people, 29 staff and 16 patients, are now associated with this cluster of cases. All have been appropriately isolated to prevent further spread of infection, the health department said.

In Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island, another positive case has resulted from the McDonald’s restaurants there. Now there are three McDonald’s locations in that area that have employees who have tested positive for the virus. The restaurants have been closed for cleaning. The total of 30 in the cluster includes 18 employees and 12 household members.

Since Ige’s announcement Friday and Victorino’s initial stance on the new rules, concerns over more beach restrictions arose on social media.

South Maui resident Mark Joiner, who wants the beaches to reopen for exercise, led the way to drawing up a petition Saturday urging Victorino to allow for beach exercise.

On Saturday afternoon, Joiner had at least 3,500 signatures and by Sunday afternoon more than 7,100 had signed. Goal was 7,500. He said he would have been happy with just 500 signatures.

Joiner said that Maui was different than Oahu and Ige’s reach was intended for Oahu where news stations showed some crowded beaches and the crowded Kaneohe sandbar over Easter weekend.

“Pretty much you could shoot a cannon down the beach . . . nobody’s here,” Joiner said Sunday afternoon via cellphone from Keawakapu Beach after getting out of the water.

Joiner said that those in South Maui and even West Maui practice social distancing and are not congregating. Once in a “blue moon” one may find someone sitting down on the sand, but not frequent, he said.

“This is our exercise. Everyone has been social distancing well. They have been behaving themselves,” Joiner added.

He gave credit to Maui County Council member Kelly King, who holds the South Maui residency seat, as the one who suggested the petition.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials also are making frequent patrols on the beaches, Joiner said, noting that enforcement was already working without the new set of rules.

Joiner said that if Ige didn’t respond to the county by Sunday, then he and supporters would start contacting the governor and his offices.

Ocean exercises, such as surfing, solo paddling and swimming, along with subsistence activities like fishing and food gathering, are still allowed, according to the new rules. Beaches may be crossed only for ocean access.

Since the initial wave of emergency rules went into effect weeks ago, the majority of violations have occurred on beaches, where people are continuing to congregate for social and recreational reasons, local and state officials have said.

Jurisdiction between state and county in this case remains unclear.

In shoreline permitting and coastal resource oversight, mauka of the shoreline is managed by the county; the state has jurisdiction makai of the shoreline into the ocean for three miles; and the federal government control begins three miles seaward of the shoreline.

Hawaii law defines shoreline as the upper reaches of the wash at high tide during the time of year with the highest wash of the waves. It’s also usually seen by the edge of vegetation growth or the upper limit of debris left by the wash of waves.

A state Department of Land and Natural Resources news release Saturday cast more confusion on jurisdiction.

“While the majority of beaches in the state are under State of Hawaii jurisdiction, some are under individual counties,” it said.

Beaches under individual county jurisdictions may have different rules, the announcement added.

Many beach activities already were restricted in Hawaii. No sitting, standing, lying down, lounging, sunbathing or loitering on the coastline and sandbars were allowed, state and local officials have said. Maui County has allowed exercise on the beaches so long as people are not sedentary.

“I strongly urge you to reconsider or clarify the rules to expressly allow exercise activities to occur on the beaches,” Victorino wrote in his letter to Ige on Saturday.

The majority of Maui’s public health rule violations occur at beaches, according to Maui police. There have been 21 arrests and 377 citations for violations from March 28 through Friday.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com

and Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)