With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly — including 152 cases and two deaths announced Thursday — Gov. David Ige imposed a partial 14-day quarantine on interisland travel effective Tuesday.
“There’s no question the virus is surging in our state,” Ige said at a news conference. “I know that many are worried about their health, especially for the health of our keiki and kupuna.”
The governor also said he would be making an announcement regarding the possible delay of opening the public schools and the University of Hawaii, as well as the state’s plan to waive on Sept. 1 the 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific visitors who test negative for the coronavirus. He said the trans-Pacific announcement would be made “in about a week or so.”
On Thursday Ige announced that he would reinstate the 14-day quarantine for all interisland travelers but added that details of his order were still being developed.
A few hours later, after talking to Attorney General Clare Connors, Ige decided to approve the interisland travel quarantine only for travelers arriving on the counties of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao on Molokai.
The quarantine requirement applies to anyone traveling to the neighbor islands. The period of self-quarantine will begin immediately upon arrival and last 14 days or the duration of the person’s stay on the island, whichever is shorter, he said.
Ige said that while the state was initially successful in keeping the daily coronavirus counts low, that turned around when the islands began reopening.
“People let their guard down,” he said. “It’s been very disappointing, and I hate it when I see people not wearing masks, gathering in public places at the beach and the parks partying with no regard to the health and safety of our community.”
Ige urged people to take personal responsibility by wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.
On Wednesday the governor was urged to impose the interisland quarantine in a letter from Maui Mayor Michael Victorino, who noted the spike in cases on Oahu. On Thursday, Victorino released a statement on the newly imposed quarantine:
“We appreciate the governor for following our request and making the difficult decision to reinstate the mandatory 14-day quarantine for interisland travelers. As cases continue to rise exponentially on Oahu, bold actions need to be taken to protect our communities on the Neighbor Islands. We pray for our friends, family and loved ones on Oahu, and remain committed to support the governor and other counties on curbing the spread of COVID-19. I also want to remind everyone to do their part and know that we will get through this pandemic together.”
Hotel industry representatives weren’t exactly enthusiastic about the new quarantine restriction, but they said they have to face facts about the surging cases on Oahu.
Kekoa McClellan, spokesman for the The American Hotel and Lodging Association, said he supports the governor’s move because Hawaii has to be a destination not only of sand and surf but of safety.
“How can you argue against public safety when the cases are spiking?” said Mufi Hannemann, executive director of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. “This is just another hardship we’re going to have to endure.”
Sumner La Croix, economics professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, acknowledged that reinstituting a quarantine isn’t going to help the economy.
But “if we are going to have a strong economy, which implies a vibrant tourism sector, we have to have the epidemic under control. It’s not as if there’s a trade-off,” La Croix said.
Ige’s office said Thursday that the attorney general was finalizing the 11th emergency proclamation, and Ige plans to sign it before Tuesday. The quarantine, as planned, will continue through Aug. 31 unless it is terminated or extended by a separate proclamation.
The previous interisland travel quarantine affecting all interisland travelers lasted from April 1 to June 16, when it was lifted by Ige in response to lower case numbers.
Those days are in the rear-view mirror as health officials on Thursday announced 152 cases, with 148 of those on Oahu. It’s been a week peppered with triple- digit case increases, and health officials said they expect the numbers to continue to rise.
“At this time, it’s projected that our intensive care units at the hospitals on Oahu will be filled to capacity and over-run by the end of this month,” Health Director Bruce Anderson said.
Officials earlier reported 53 new cases but noted that figure was incomplete because of problems with receiving test results from a private laboratory.
At Ige’s press conference, Anderson said Thursday’s total was “at least 200.” By the end of the day, however, the figure was revised to 152, bringing the statewide total to 2,914 since the start of the outbreak.
Officials also announced two new coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu, bringing the statewide death tally to 29. An elderly female resident at a Pearl City nursing home and an elderly man, both with underlying medical conditions, were hospitalized when they died.
The number of new hospitalizations were updated to 11, all on Oahu and bringing the total statewide to 225 since the start of the outbreak. Officials said there were 117 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in Hawaii, with 115 on Oahu.
“Fifty-three percent of the ICU beds are filled, and that percentage will increase as more serious cases result from the new positive cases,” Anderson said. “The projections for the neighbor islands are better, but their hospital capacity is much more fragile, with less space and limited capacity.”
Anderson said Hawaii is approaching a health care crisis.
“Bold measures are needed now to stem the increase,” he said.
Star-Advertiser staff writer Allison Schaefers contributed to this story.