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Hawaii visitor with no lodging arrangements is sent back to mainland via new program

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii used its newly formed COVID-19 flight assistance program to send back a visitor from Denver Thursday.

The program, which is funded with a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, aims to ensure that travelers to Hawaii don’t stay here unless they have the resources to follow a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Visitors to Hawaii are required to bear all quarantine expenses, including lodging and food delivery.

Jessica Lani Rich, VASH president and CEO, said the nonprofit paid to send the woman home after it discovered that she had not made any plans to stay in a hotel to complete the quarantine.

>> RELATED: Hawaii visitors slip in despite coronavirus crackdowns

“She said she was coming here because during COVID-19 flights were cheap and so were hotels,” Rich said. “It’s irresponsible for visitors to come to Hawaii now. If they haven’t made any plans to follow the quarantine, we’re sending them back. It’s our job to keep Hawaii safe.”

Gov. David Ige on March 17 asked visitors to postpone their trips to Hawaii for 30 days and reschedule for another date. On March 26, Ige instituted a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for all arriving trans-Pacific passengers to cut travel demand and protect Hawaii’s resources. He expanded the quarantine to interisland flights on April 1.

Visitors to Hawaii have dropped dramatically from historic levels, which at this time last year were averaging 30,000 a day. However, some are still coming.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today that Thursday’s trans-Pacific passenger count was 663, including 107 visitors and 171 residents. The count also included 99 airline crew members, 241 transit passengers, and 45 intended new residents for Oahu.

The new count of visitors was the same as Wednesday’s number. In comparison, 160 visitors came on Tuesday, 133 on Monday, 126 on Sunday, 106 on Saturday, 94 on April 3 and 89 on April 2.

Some 448 visitors, who flew into Hawaii on the first two days of a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, have finished the process. If they are still in Hawaii, now they can have as much freedom as “non-essential worker” locals, which isn’t much.

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