comscore Editorial: Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine should apply to the military | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Editorial | Our View

Editorial: Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine should apply to the military

Hawaii has been steadfast, rightly so, in its vigilance on quarantine-breaking visitors and returning residents entering the state. After all, the strict 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific arrivals has been instrumental in crushing the coronavirus caseload curve, and that has been the short-term goal. Added evidence of the state’s resolve: Hawaii’s first resident was arrested this week and charged with violating quarantine after being spotted swimming in the ocean hours after returning from San Diego.

That’s why it’s a disconnect to see the state being so forceful with civilian travelers — visitors and residents alike — but light-handed when it comes to incoming military members.

The state’s 14-day quarantine has been waived for the military, regardless of where they came from. While exempting military personnel deemed “essential” could be justified, it’s questionable for military families relocating here to also be waived from quarantine, as has been allowed by Hawaii’s COVID response commander, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, in a May 29 memo.

Then on Monday, the Pentagon greenlighted Hawaii and 37 other states plus the District of Columbia for increased military moves. That comes after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a May 22 memo easing a strict June 30 “stop movement” order for U.S. personnel.

There were 1,125 military personnel arriving in Hawaii in the first week of June. On Sunday, of 1,829 Hawaii arrivals, 158 were military connected; on Monday, of 1,732 total arrivals, 192 were military.

Saying that its interests dovetail with the state’s to tamp the coronavirus, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said that its “restriction of movement” guidelines prohibit service members from going out for 14 days after arrival except for essential places such as grocery stores, doctors or pharmacies. It’s advised that family members do likewise.

But there is concern about how closely the guidelines are being adhered to. Recent Memorial Day weekend incidents involving military-related members apparently flouting Oahu’s social-distancing rules raise doubts. The Army this week said it is conducting an inquiry into allegations that soldiers participated in prohibited social beach gatherings over that weekend.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Clare Connors said: “The travel quarantine is an important part of our state’s success in reducing the spread of the disease, and both residents and travelers alike should take care to follow these rules and practices.”

Stern words to everyone, and certainly needed. But they would be more effective if the state’s enforcements applied to all incoming travelers — military and civilian alike.

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