In the state’s toughest measure yet in combating the coronavirus, Gov. David Ige today ordered residents and visitors returning to Hawaii to undergo a 14-day quarantine starting Thursday.
Ige described the mandate as a first of its kind in the nation as the state Department of Health reported the state’s tally of coronavirus cases jumped from 37 on Friday to 48 today, most of which are travel-related.
“We need to come together as a community to fight this virus,” Ige said at a news conference in the state Capitol this afternoon. “We want this action to send the message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii but we are asking them to postpone their visit.”
Ige held the press conference alongside leaders in the travel and visitor industry, who said they supported the move as a way to provide for the health and safety of the community.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he and the other county mayors met with the governor to discuss the next step and they found consensus.
“We were united in taking action,” he said. “Sometimes there were differences in some of the details, but at the end of the day it’s about standing up together and protecting the people of the state of Hawaii.”
Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said returning residents will be required to quarantine in their homes and visitors at their hotels. Information such as name, phone number and address of hotel or residence will be collected from the state’s agriculture form that travelers fill out prior to arrival.
“We know this will significantly impact the number of visitors,” Ige said.
Violation of the quarantine will be a misdemeanor and subject to a possible $5,000 fine and/or jail time. The counties will be responsible for enforcement.
The quarantine mandate will continue indefinitely, and Ige said visitors are responsible for quarantine costs.
“We don’t want travelers in our community at this point in time,” Ige said.
Ige resisted calls to establish a lockdown and shelter-in-place order as suggested by scores of medical professionals.
Aggressive testing, he said, so far suggests that spreading of the disease within the community isn’t occurring.
As for the future, “certainly all measures are on the table,” the governor said, adding that a mandatory quarantine for the broader community may be implemented here. “But it really is appropriate when there is widespread community spread of the virus.”
Elliot Mills, vice president of hotel operations of Disneyland Resort and Aulani in Koolina, said he supported the governor’s mandate.
“It’s important to take this bold step now so we can operate in good order, get our guests home safely and hopefully very soon get our guests back to the state to enjoy our islands,” Mills said
Peter Ingram, CEO and president of Hawaiian Airlines, said his company will reduce its domestic and international schedule to “a bare-bones level” starting Wednesday. The neighbor island schedule will continue but at a reduced level.
Ingram said Hawaiian is trying to avoid layoffs and furloughs but that may not be possible.