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Hawaii NewsLee Cataluna

Lee Cataluna: Hawaii quarantine enforcement efforts misplaced

                                Honolulu police kept vigil at Fort DeRussy Beach Park in Waikiki on Wednesday.
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Honolulu police kept vigil at Fort DeRussy Beach Park in Waikiki on Wednesday.

Expecting tourists to obey a 14-day quarantine for the good of a community they don’t live in has proved to be naive and unrealistic. They’re here to have fun in the sun. Our “concerns” are getting in their way.

Perhaps the approach to keeping Hawaii safe from reintroduction of COVID-19 from travelers was misdirected from the start.

To combat the scourge of drugs, law enforcement targets dealers rather than users. Suppliers of illegal substances get harsher penalties than their customers. The higher up the supply chain, the more money they’re making off the troublesome trade, the greater the debt to society.

The responsibility for this dangerous situation should be put on those who are profiting off the quarantine-breakers. They’re aiding and abetting. They’re making quarantine-breaking possible.

Nobody wants to see airlines or hotels go out of business. It’s not about that. It’s about health and safety and the simple truth that all it takes is one incautious infected person to come to Hawaii and start this whole thing up again.

Airlines keep flying in more people like they have no skin in the game. Hotels and motels were, oddly, deemed “essential” when Hawaii was shutting down businesses and telling us we had to stay home.

A specific problem is vacation rentals, where anything goes and nobody ever seems to get in trouble.

Legally permitted vacation rentals should not be operating at all right now because they were not deemed essential businesses, but of course they are, with impunity. Illegal vacation rentals, meanwhile, are part of Hawaii’s lingering reputation for being all-show, no-go when it comes to enforcement.

Single-use hotel room card-keys are a cute idea, but any dorm adviser can tell you that rascals have ways of getting past passive “security” measures like that. Besides, it puts the burden of quarantine enforcement on hotel desk staff. The burden should be higher up the profit chain. If an outbreak gets traced back to a hotel or lodging, there should be fines and damages paid.

The state’s order that any inbound traveler be quarantined for 14 days was never very serious from the start. It came off as merely a request or suggestion. In 2020 sensibilities, old-school quarantine with locked facilities, gates and guards sounds barbaric, but having tourists fill out a form with lines of lies is just laughably ineffective.

Among the shopping malls opening this week are the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and Waikiki’s International Market Place. The state isn’t even trying to pretend that there aren’t tourists in Waikiki coming and going from hotel rooms. If there’s a buck to make off a lawbreaker, they’re all for it.

Gen. Kenneth Hara is worrying about hypothetical rioting and civil unrest if the local economy isn’t opened soon. What’s really getting Hawaii residents angry right now is looking out their windows at the tourists blatantly disregarding the rules Hawaii has dutifully followed for two months. People are upset, and not just at the tourists, but at the lame enforcement.

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