Gov. David Ige said Thursday that while an announcement about ending the mandatory 14-day interisland quarantine will be made in the next few days, the same two-week restriction for incoming travelers to Hawaii will be extended beyond June 30.
The governor did not offer any specific dates for the actions during a “historic” first-time Facebook Live online conference featuring a Zoom call with Ige and all four of Hawaii’s mayors, who appeared from their offices on their respective islands.
Like celebrities on the old “Hollywood Squares” game show, Ige, the mayors and a sign language interpreter appeared on screen in separate boxes, making statements about their responses to the coronavirus pandemic and taking turns answering questions submitted by viewers.
Much of the hourlong call was spent congratulating themselves — and the people of Hawaii — for “flattening the curve” and making the state among the country’s leaders in COVID-19 infection and death rates, and in hospitalization and intensive care unit use.
“Clearly, the response — as a partnership — has been truly amazing across the state of Hawaii,” Ige declared.
There were few glitches during the online event, save for the time Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami forgot to undo his mute button.
Earlier in the day the state Health Department announced three new coronavirus cases in Hawaii — all on Oahu — bringing the statewide total to 647 — only 15 of those cases in the past 2-1/2 weeks.
During the online conference, Ige read a question from a viewer named Carrie, who asked whether the 14-day quarantine would be extended past June 30, saying people need to know in order to cancel their accommodations.
Ige responded that the measure would indeed be extended.
“We talk about that all the time,” Ige said, referring to his thrice-weekly discussions with the mayors. “Interisland is different, but trans-Pacific continues to be a concern.”
A viewer named Patty asked, “Why can’t we travel interisland? Statistically, the case numbers are the same. I can understand domestic and international travel can impact the spread, but not interisland.”
Ige responded that he and the mayors have been working for the past three weeks on what it will take to end the 14-day interisland quarantine, and an announcement is expected in the next few days.
“So stay tuned,” he said.
Later in the show, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino was asked about ending the interisland quarantine.
He said the proper safeguards, guidelines and protocols must be in place first, including having fully staffed checkpoints at the airports.
“We’re good. We’re in excellent shape. But we want to stay there,” Victorino said. “And, most important, people have to be patient, because if we make a misstep, then you have to step back, as you’ve seen across the United States and around the world, where different countries have let go or opened up and then had to backtrack, and we don’t want to do that.”
He added that the effort will be a good test for how well prepared the state will be when it finally opens up to travel from outside the islands.
Earlier in the day, Lt. Gov. Josh Green told the COVID-19 Care Conversation on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser website that the interisland passenger quarantine should have been lifted already, considering how few cases there have been in Hawaii over recent weeks.
While he agrees it’s important to be cautious, he said he’s concerned about other potential dire consequences linked to the worsening economy, including the closing of as many as 10% of Hawaii’s small businesses.
“We have to open up, and we should do it right now when the prevalence of disease is lowest,” said Green, an emergency room physician from Hawaii island.
Green said he anticipates interisland travel to reopen in early June, followed by domestic and international travel in mid-July. He added that the governor is likely to make an announcement early next week.
Green, meanwhile, has been pushing for the use of pre-arrival testing for domestic and international travelers. He said he’s been talking with CVS, which has the capability to test individuals at 1,000 locations around the country.
“We can direct people respectfully to go and grab a test before coming,” he said.
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