Hawaii has begun sending home the 21 cult members who allegedly broke the state’s mandatory quarantine for travelers immediately after arriving in the islands.
From April 6 to Monday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority-funded COVID-19 Flight Assistance Program has helped get 92 passengers home.
Jessica Lani Rich, president and chief executive officer for the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, the organization running the flight assistance program, said Monday’s count included three cult leaders from Carbon Nation.
Eligio Bishop, Jacob Benton and Johnson Denedric were put on planes to Los Angeles on Monday. Rich said she will send 18 more cult members to Los Angeles today.
The cult members, who arrived in Hawaii on June 8, were busted by the Hawaii Police Department last Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, police arrested five men and three women at a Pikake Street residence. On Thursday morning, they arrested 13 more, including six females and seven males, at a home on Railroad Avenue in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision of Puna.
Bishop — who refers to himself as “God” and “Natureboy” — was among those arrested and charged after police followed up on social media posts and tips from the public. In addition, some of those arrested were observed at a beach park in Hilo the same day they arrived.
“They are a religious cult known for polygamy and nudism,” she said.
Rich said HTA is paying to send all 21 of the cult members home.
“We have gotten positive feedback that a lot of people on the Big Island and in the state of Hawaii are glad to see them leave. They didn’t have a place to quarantine and we want to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” she said. “Some people also are glad to see them leave because of their questionable lifestyle.”
Carbon Nation had previously told officials that they intended to relocate to Hawaii and wouldn’t accept flight assistance to return home.
Meanwhile, visitors went down to 22% of total Hawaii passengers on Monday, just one day before the ending of the interisland passenger quarantine.
Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today that 397 of the 1,759 passengers that came to Hawaii on Monday were visitors. On the 20 flights that came to Hawaii, there also were 543 residents and 111 people planning to relocate to Hawaii. There also were 203 airline crew members and 140 transit passengers who did not plan to leave the airport.
The planes also brought 232 military members and 143 people who were exempt from the quarantine. The state Attorney General’s Office still has not provided the Star-Advertiser with a breakdown of the reasons that certain passengers qualify for exemptions.
Most of the visitors, some 346, arriving in Hawaii on Monday were Oahu bound. However, 36 passengers went to Maui and 15 to Kona.
Counts have waxed and waned since the trans-Pacific passenger quarantine began in Hawaii on March 26. Currently, it’s slated to run through at least July 31. However, Lt. Gov. Josh Green is leading a hui that is trying to lift the out-of-state passenger quarantine for passengers with negative COVID-19 tests that meet state-approved conditions.
Monday’s visitor count was the lowest since Friday when 375 visitors were among the state’s daily passengers. Those were the only two days since June 1 that daily visitor arrivals dipped below 400.
The highest daily visitor count since March 26 was on June 7 when 667 visitors came to Hawaii.
Trans-Pacific passengers are still required to complete a mandatory 14-day self quarantine. Upon entry into Hawaii, out-of-state passengers must show that they have a legal place to complete their quarantine. If they can’t do that they must leave Hawaii or are subject to violation of Gov. David Ige’s emergency order which is a misdemeanor charge that could trigger a fine of up to $5,000 and or a year in jail.