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Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine for travelers has loopholes

A majority of the 460 visitors who flew to Oahu on Friday and Saturday said they would be staying with family or friends.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said 255 of the 460 visitors described their accommodations on Oahu as “friends and family,” and 218 said the purpose of their trip to Hawaii was to “visit friends and relatives.”

The question is whether those visitors staying with family or friends are following the 14-day quarantine as ordered by Gov. David Ige on March 26 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. During the two-week quarantine, visitors are not allowed to leave their accommodations for any reason other than medical care and are not allowed to have visitors.

It is unclear whether the emergency quarantine order makes it illegal for visitors to stay with local residents, said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19.

“I guess that would be somewhat of a loophole that we would have to … work with the attorney general on,” Dela Cruz said Sunday in an interview.

Dela Cruz said he’s heard some people are using apps, such as Couchsurfing, where users find friends on the internet to stay with, or using apps to rent private vehicles or mopeds even though the rental of vehicles to anyone under the 14-day quarantine is prohibited under the state emergency order.

Couchsurfing advertises itself as a way to “stay with locals” and meet new friends.

“It sounds like we’re going to have another meeting on this quite soon,” Dela Cruz said. “Unfortunately, some of these people are finding loopholes.”

Dela Cruz said senators have asked the state attorney general to make it clear to local residents housing visitors under quarantine that they are also liable if the visitors do not follow the quarantine.

He said committee members asked the state to look into conducting random drive-bys or inspections to make sure visitors are self-quarantining in private residences.

It’s critical the state fix the problems because local residents have sacrificed too much to see visitors come in and jeopardize the efforts to keep the coronavirus cases low, Dela Cruz said.

“We need to get this cleaned up, and it has to be tightened up so that as more and more visitors come, there’s some trust in the process,” he said. “Right now there’s a lot of distrust and concern and frustration about what’s going on.”

Also Sunday, the state only reported one new case of the coronavirus — on Oahu, bringing Hawaii’s total to 632. There have been 58 new cases since April 18, the last time the state had a double-digit increase in coronavirus cases.

Of those who tested positive, 561 have since been released from isolation. The state uses a symptom-based strategy for releasing people from isolation, meaning they are not tested before release. Instead, the individuals must meet federal criteria for release, such as waiting at least three days since the resolution of a fever or at least 10 days since their symptoms first appeared.

Hawai’s death toll Sunday stood at 17, unchanged for more than a week.

Since early March there have been 37,785 coronavirus tests conducted in Hawaii, with only 1.7% of them coming back positive.

The HTA reported Sunday that the 857 passengers who arrived Saturday in Hawaii on 14 flights included 334 residents, 255 visitors, 127 crew members, 79 intended residents and 62 passengers transiting to other locations.

At this time last year, Hawaii was receiving nearly 30,000 passengers a day, with most of them visitors. In April 2019, 856,250 visitors came to Hawaii. Since March 26 just over 6,500 visitors arrived in Hawaii.

The majority — 773 — of Saturday’s arriving travelers, including crew members and residents, flew to Oahu. Kauai had 21 passengers and Kona had 63 arrivals.

Of the 217 visitors who arrived on Oahu, about 50 listed accommodations other than “friends or family” on the agricultural declaration form. The other choices included “hostel,” “hotel,” “condo,” “other,” “private room,” “shared room, other” and “rental house.”

Forty-eight did not answer the question.

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