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Councilmember Kym Pine questions self-quarantine exemptions for military arriving in Hawaii

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the incident commander for Hawaii’s COVID-19 response, has added military family members moving to Hawaii to those exempted from the 14-day self-quarantine that applies to civilians, including residents and tourists, arriving in the state.

In a memo dated Friday, Hara, the state adjutant general and director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, reiterated that all military service members traveling to Hawaii for official business are part of what’s considered essential travel for critical infrastructure and also are not subject to the 14-day self-quarantine rule.

Honolulu City Councilmember Kym Pine sent a letter to Hara objecting to what she calls a “blanket exemption” for the military.

How many military members have come into Hawaii without self-quarantining was not immediately clear.

“All military travelers should be in quarantine for 14 days,” Pine said. “We’ve all worked too hard” in Hawaii on COVID-19 reduction, she added. “One mistake could ruin it all.”

There’s also been confusion with the state guidelines. Pine says she knows military members who have left Hawaii on official orders and had to quarantine for 14 days when they returned.

“I am adamantly against this blanket exemption,” she said. “That it does not take into consideration where they are coming from, is extremely concerning. As a military spouse and an official that represents a large military population, I can attest that many were able to still do their jobs while quarantined.”

Hawaii’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center was not able to provide any immediate clarification today.

Hara’s memo said: “All military service members traveling to Hawaii for official business are considered essential travel for critical infrastructure service and are not subject to the 14-day self-quarantine rules.”

The memo adds that “although not explicitly required,” the state asks military service members arriving in Hawaii on official business to follow certain guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Although those requirements are not detailed in the relatively brief memo, Hara said it means following “the previous guidelines set forth for the stay-at-home order” pertaining to leaving a residence for essentials such as food, medicine and authorized duties.

Those requirements differ from more restrictive self-quarantine rules. According to the state Health Department, individuals arriving in Hawaii are required to stay in their home or lodging for 14 days and are prohibited from going to public places such as work, shopping centers or local attractions.

Gov. David Ige said Thursday the 14-day quarantine for incoming air passengers to Hawaii would be extended past June 30, but did not provide a specific end date. He also said that he and mayors have been working on what it will take to end the interisland quarantine.

However, Hawaii National Guard members who this came week came off federal active duty for coronavirus duty and returned to another island were also not required to quarantine if daily health checks did not show any indications of coronavirus, the Guard said. About 400 of 1,200 Hawaii National Guard troops mobilized for COVID-19 have been taken off the active-duty roster.

Hara’s memo also states, “I am authorizing family members that move to Hawaii, as part of a permanent change of station (PCS), also be designated as essential travel and not subjected to the 14-day self-quarantine.”

The state also requests that family members abide by the previous stay-at-home guidelines for 14 days.

“This letter may be used as the official order under my authority as the director of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and as the state’s incident commander,” the memo reads. It adds that the family member exemption has been coordinated with the state Attorney General and state Department of Transportation Airports Division.

Family members who travel that are not listed on PCS orders and military members that are not traveling on official orders will be subject to the self-quarantine order, according to the memo.

A March 31 memo from the state of Hawaii Department of Defense said that as part of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, the governor ordered all persons traveling to and between islands in Hawaii to self-quarantine.

“The governor expressly excepted from this mandatory self-quarantine persons performing functions necessary to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors so long as they submit to thermal screening upon arrival, wear appropriate protective gear and follow the social distancing requirements,” the memo states.

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