While Kilauea continues to show signs of unrest on the Big Island of Hawaii, the National Park Service which operates the park the summit caldera is contained within has announced new rules due to a surge of COVID cases in Hawaii.
The park service updated their website to warn, “High-quality masks must be worn by all individuals inside park buildings when the CDC COVID-19 Hospital Admission Levels are HIGH. Some programs and events may be cancelled.”
Today, they posted on the X platform that indoor programs would now be outright canceled. “Due to the COVID-19 High Hospitalization Admission Level on Hawaii Island all indoor programs are currently canceled,” the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park wrote. “Planning to visit? Wear a mask indoors. If you have symptoms, please return when you are well. Mahalo for your cooperation and understanding. Stay well!”
The Hawaii Department of Health is however reporting a decline in COVID hospitalizations in the state, dropping from 55 on November 11 to 35 on November 15. The same state agency published a graph on their website showing a declining number of new admissions.
However, the CDC is reporting different numbers. According to the CDC, Hawaii hospitalizations ending for the week of November 11 surged to 75, representing an increase of 733%.
This new policy and conflicting COVID data comes at a time of heightened unrest at the volcano and inside the National Park that surrounds it.
While the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) stresses that Kilauea volcano is not currently erupting, they say unrest there has increased somewhat. Yesterday morning, seismicity around the volcano increased.
Seismic activity in the south part of Kilauea’s caldera, which has been elevated over the last week, increased in the early morning hours and was followed by a cluster of earthquakes around 8 am in the upper East Rift Zone. HVO cautions, “Unrest may continue to wax and wane with changes to the input of magma into the area and eruptive activity could occur in the near future with little or no warning. No unusual activity has been noted along the middle and lower sections of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone.”
HVO also reports that the Uēkahuna summit tiltmeter, located northwest of the caldera had a modest increase in tilt in the past 24 hours. The Sand Hill tiltmeter, located southwest of the caldera, had moderate observable inflation in the last 24 hours. However, overall, the summit of Kilauea remains at a high level of inflation, above the level reached prior to the most recent eruption in September 2023.
HVO summed up the activity on the USGS website: “There is currently no sign of an imminent eruption, but the increased seismicity around the summit and upper East Rift Zones are similar to events that have preceded other eruptions. The most likely location for renewed eruptive activity is within Kīlauea caldera, but it is also possible that an eruption could occur in the upper East Rift Zone. It is also possible that the seisimic activity observed today may subside and no eruption will occur. The onsets of previous summit eruptions have been marked by strong swarms of earthquakes caused by the emplacement of a dike 1-2 hours before eruptions and these have not been detected at this time.”