More visitors came to Hawaii by air Wednesday bringing the total visitor count to 3,561 since the state initiated emergency orders designed to collapse tourism to conserve resources for locals.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today that 421 trans-Pacific passengers arrived on Wednesday, including 109 visitors and 166 residents. The count also included 76 airline crew members, 24 transit passengers who are catching other flights and 45 intended new residents for Oahu and one for Lihue.
Hawaii residents were the largest category comprising 39% of the total. Visitors, which made up 26% of the traffic, included everyone with an out-of-state ID who plans to leave Hawaii after a period of time. Intended residents are those with out-of-state IDs who say they plan to stay here. The intended residents category might include military personnel, college students, people moving to Hawaii to live with their families, and homeless individuals.
In the 28 days since the quarantine began, visitors by air have averaged about 127 a day.
That’s a roughly 98% decline from the 30,000 passengers or so who were arriving daily in Hawaii at this time last year. But some members of the community still think the counts are too high.
Essential travelers, especially healthcare workers and first responders, are among the visitors that are arriving. However, they aren’t the target of emergency orders like Gov. David Ige’s order to institute a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for trans-Pacific passengers on March 26 and extend it to interisland arrivals on April 1. Visitors who are in quarantine are not allowed to leave their lodging even for food or groceries, which they must arrange to have delivered. Violators of emergency orders face a misdemeanor change that carries a $5,000 fine and/or up to a year in jail.
Over the last two weeks, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii has helped pay to return 19 visitors, who weren’t prepared to follow the 14-day quarantine, to their homes. VASH is using funds from an HTA-supported COVID-19 flight assistance program to pay partial or full flight costs.
“The tend we are seeing now is that the visitors that we deal with aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously. They know about the quarantine. They’d have to live under a rock not to know,” said Jessica Lani Rich, VASH president and CEO.
Rich said the program is for visitors who don’t have the means to get home. The program did send Aarona Browning-Lopez, 37, back to Los Angeles on Friday after she violated COVID-19 emergency rules. Officials allowed Browning-Lopez to enter Hawaii despite only providing a post office box for an address. Law enforcement later arrested Browning-Lopez after getting complaints from the community that she was trying to set up a tent on the side of a road.
On Tuesday, Kimberly Kim Tien, a 34-year-old visitor from Las Vegas, and Edwin Htun, a 33-year-old visitor from Sydney, were arrested after a hotel manager turned them in for violating emergency rules. Tien’s Instagram posts showed that she had left her Waikiki hotel room before she had completed her quarantine. Special agents from the Attorney General’s Office also procured records that showed that the pair repeatedly left their room.
However, after the couple were released from custody, they checked out of the LayLow and into the Outrigger Waikiki, where they continued to violate emergency rules. After Outrigger Waikiki staff caught the couple violating quarantine again, they checked out and eluded law enforcement.
A manhunt was launched. The couple were finally caught by law enforcement after taking an Uber to the airport. Law enforcement officials monitored the couple to ensure that they got on their California-bound plane.
However, Rich said the couple left for California Wednesday night and paid for their own flights.
“They were defiant and belligerent. And, they had the means to do whatever,” Rich said.