State Attorney General Clare Connors, Gov. David Ige and Paul Jones, deputy chief special agent for the Department of the Attorney General Investigations Division, appear pleased with the level of compliance with Ige’s COVID-19 travel quarantine.
On Thursday the three held an online Q&A to discuss enforcement of the 14-day quarantine, which some in the public and in office don’t believe has been adequate.
On Wednesday the Senate special committee on COVID-19 voiced criticism to Connors and the Department of Health about the community’s lack of confidence in making sure quarantined travelers stay inside and away from the public.
Jones said that since June 10, 12 law enforcement agents from the Department of the Attorney General have volunteered to do an average of five to 10 face-to-face visits daily with quarantined travelers at their designated locations.
He reported that they have done over 350 compliance checks, which have led to just one arrest.
“There may have been maybe half a dozen to a dozen that haven’t come on the first check to the door, but on the follow-up checks they have been there, and they have been compliant on the follow-up checks,” Jones said. “The people have, in large part, been at their quarantine locations.”
Connors said the compliance checks show that visitors have been taking the quarantine, which has been in place since March, seriously.
“The compliance checks have been very reassuring because it demonstrates that, unless people are egregiously out there violating, we know that they are complying,” she said.
Connors recounted the other forms of enforcement of the quarantine, which start at airports.
“When people come and they don’t have a place to stay or they are not willing to comply with our quarantine orders, through the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, we have sent 80 to 90 people back just at the airport. And that has helped us a great deal with compliance,” she said.
She said the attorney general’s office has arrested about two dozen other quarantine violators in separate investigations.
Nearly 2,300 people, including almost 2,000 on Oahu, flew to Hawaii on Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, and while that is less than 7% of the normal number of the daily passengers that Hawaii would have normally expected this time of year, it’s still more than what law enforcement is capable of keeping up with.
Ige said that between HTA and the Department of Transportation, thousands of phone calls are being made daily to check up on visitors in quarantine.
When asked how many people under quarantine are actually contacted and if that information is publicly available, Ige said, “Publishing that kind of information might improve public confidence that the program is working. … I know that they are keeping track, and maybe that’s something we could add to the daily bulletins and reports that we’re making.”
After curbing the spread of COVID-19 in May, a second spike in cases that started in early June that is as bad, if not worse, than the first has driven the number of total cases in Hawaii to over 1,300, according to the state Health Department.
Though much of Hawaii’s economy has opened and remains open, the second wave of cases has delayed a full reopening, including prompting Ige to delay until Sept. 1 a plan until that would allow out-of-state travelers to bypass the 14-day quarantine if they test negative for the virus within 72 hours of flying to Hawaii.