It must be awfully tempting to cheat. A neighbor island jaunt beckons, with alluringly low fares and rates. Yes, everyone’s told there’s a strict 14-day quarantine in effect for all arriving on an airplane — coming from wherever, and whoever they are, visitor or tourist.
But the neighbor islands in particular have an image as relaxed, no-stress areas, so it’s not exactly surprising that people try to push boundaries with the powers that be.
Surprise! The powers that be are now exercising that power, at last, after initial weeks of stumbling. As draconian as its strict application might feel in a laid-back state such as Hawaii, it’s plainly necessary at this stage to convey the right message.
That is: The state of Hawaii, and all four of its counties, mean business with this quarantine. While it’s not the friendly disposition the islands usually adopts when facing visitors, it’s the only way to deter the spread of a disease that often can’t be detected until the community already has been exposed.
Since March 22, the 14-day quarantine has been in effect for anyone arriving from outside the state, with contact information and location of accommodations collected upon arrival.
Some county officials thought Gov. David Ige instead should have secured an order from President Donald Trump to shut down commercial inbound flights. Ige questioned, rightly, whether there was a legal basis to bar interstate travel, due to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, more to the point, there is reason to worry that taking that extraordinary step would do longer-lasting damage to the state’s brand as a welcoming place. It also may not be necessary if the constraints placed on a stay in Hawaii would be onerous enough to make such a trip unappealing.
There’s been a steep decline in visitor arrivals, signalling that the quarantine order can be effective — if it’s enforced.
More recently, the order was expanded to those traveling interisland as well. With the exception of certain essential workers who are allowed to go between their work sites and accommodations, as needed, all passengers on interisland flights must be held to the 14-day quarantine, at least until they’re headed back to their home.
Frustratingly, there was a disconnect initially between those gathering travelers’ contact information at the start of trips, and those on the island who would be following up. Reports started coming in that authorities were not checking up on neighbor island arrivals.
They seem to be tightening things up. On Friday, Ige announced the launch of a Web-based app, safetravels.hawaii.gov, which gives visitors a way to enter their information online; they get a reminder to check in daily, as required.
But this is just a tool. The counties must demonstrate their resolve to enforce the rules, or any number of reminders won’t do any good.
There have been examples showing that they can.
Kauai has gained particular notoriety for this. On March 31, a Florida man was arrested for allegedly violating his quarantine in a Kapaa boutique hotel; he was reportedly stopped in Hanalei. Notably, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami dubbed him a “COVID-iot,” adopting a term that’s trending on social media.
Days later, a second visitor, this one from Washington state, was arrested because he had no reservations for lodging. Instead of “winging it” on some beach, he ended up in a cellblock. Finally, on Friday, a couple was arrested, after a warning, for ignoring instructions to head directly to their accommodations.
Does this feel harsh? Ordinarily, perhaps. But these are harsh times, with the health of more than a million people, statewide, at stake.