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Quarantine of Hawaii interisland visitors lacks enforcement

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM 
                                Gov. David Ige announced during a March 21 news conference that a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors and returning residents to Hawaii would begin March 26.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Gov. David Ige announced during a March 21 news conference that a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors and returning residents to Hawaii would begin March 26.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaiian Airlines.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaiian Airlines.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER
                                <strong>“(Enforcement was) just not going to be possible until certain protoccols were established with the information (about interisland passengers).”</strong>
                                <strong>Harry Kim</strong>
                                <em>Hawaii mayor</em>

    STAR-ADVERTISER

    “(Enforcement was) just not going to be possible until certain protoccols were established with the information (about interisland passengers).”

    Harry Kim

    Hawaii mayor

A mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for interisland passengers began last week, but so far, the counties haven’t received timely information about which arriving passengers need to be monitored, and no one is making compliance calls.

Gov. David Ige ordered the interisland quarantine, which began Wednesday, as an extension of a mandatory quarantine for trans-Pacific passengers.

Since the start of the trans-Pacific quarantine on March 26, the counties have been receiving information about arriving trans-Pacific passengers. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau calls to alert hosts that they have visitors arriving who are subject to a quarantine order. The agency also randomly calls the visitors to check for compliance.

But that’s not happening for interisland flights. Counties anxious to monitor interisland arrivals say they aren’t receiving timely information. In addition, Hawaii Tourism Authority and HVCB staff are not making calls to interisland travelers who are subject to the quarantine, according to HTA spokeswoman Marisa Yamane.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said Monday that information needed to enforce the interisland quarantine is coming late. It’s the responsibility of local police to enforce it, but police get critical information about interisland passengers a day late, he said.

Kim said he called Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, Hawaii adjutant general, on Wednesday after the interisland quarantine order was implemented to express concern that enforcement was “just not going to be possible until certain protocols were established with the information.”

“Our responsibilities, meaning the Police Department’s responsibilities, could not be committed to because we were not getting the timely information of the visitors — who they are and where they are staying and all of those things automatically required,” Kim said.

Under the current system, Kim said, local police don’t know where interisland visitors went for the day, where they are or how to verify the information’s credibility. Kim said “chasing them a day after, or whatever after, they leave the airport,” wouldn’t be effective.

Kim said he’s confident that Hara will establish policies that “will make this work.”

Kim said he was grateful that Hara has activated the National Guard, which began doing medical screening at some of the state’s airports Monday.

“They are here in Hilo and they’ll be in Kona forthcoming,” Kim said, but he added that distribution of interisland passenger information still needed to be addressed.

Proponents have touted temperature checks as a way to reduce the risk that someone with COVID-19 will enter a destination; however, the scans don’t detect asymptomatic carriers.

“Naturally, I’ll be satisfied when all the loopholes are connected, and at this point I understand they are working on it,” Kim said.

Officials from other counties also have expressed concerns.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and state Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In response to a query on whether interisland protocols would be changing Monday, the State of Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center sent an email saying, “The protocol is not changing — to our knowledge. If anything changes, we’ll let you know.”

These shortfalls in the oversight of the interisland quarantine process emerge as Maui County records its first coronavirus death. The death of the elderly Maui male resident with underlying health conditions was the first reported Hawaii coronavirus death outside Oahu, where four people have died.

The state Department of Health said the Maui man who died was exposed to travelers. But DOH had not determined whether travel was a risk factor associated with his death.

State health officials reported Monday that COVID-19 cases had risen to 387, up 16 from Sunday. They said over 80% of the total cases were residents returning from other areas. Travel was a risk factor in as many as five of the newly reported cases, while two were community-related and nine were of unknown origin.

The aim of the quarantines is to help the state flatten its coronavirus curve by reducing travel demand and restricting residents’ mobility.

Under the 14-day quarantine rules, inter- island travelers are required to fill out a declaration form that includes their name, residential address, telephone number and destination as well as the reason for their trip.

The self-quarantine order does not apply to those traveling for medical or health care if they wear appropriate protective gear and follow social distancing requirements. Other interisland travelers must self-quarantine whenever they are not engaged in essential functions. During the self-quarantine period, travelers are supposed to remain at home or at their lodging. They must have food delivered to their quarantine site as they cannot visit stores or restaurants. They cannot receive visitors.

Once the interisland travelers return home, the self-quarantine order is lifted.

Violations of quarantine orders is a misdemeanor with fines of up to $5,000 and up to one year in prison.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino are among those who want to see even greater travel crackdowns. They’ve sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to stop all nonessential travel to Hawaii.

Kawakami has been especially vigilant.

“When people move the virus moves, and we need help from all levels of government to minimize movement so we can get back to normal,” he said. “Now is not the time for leisurely travel.”

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