Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he has asked the Governor’s office to sign off on several significant changes to the Safe Travels program for visitors arriving to Oahu, but after two weeks, he still has not received an answer.
“I don’t know why. We were told in the early days when our authority was taken away, when all the mayors’ authority was taken away from the initial actions that we were taking, that we would hear back within 24 hours. Well, that time has long passed,” he said during the Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii show on Wednesday.
Caldwell has asked for three modifications to the program. First, that people who have been tested for COVID-19 on the mainland but were not able to upload results within the 72-hour deadline, be allowed to take a second test at the city’s testing lab at the airport, and provided they test negative, be released from mandatory quarantine.
“Being forced into quarantine right now is not a good thing for Oahu. Because there’s 20,000 people in quarantine on any given day, HPD has to enforce against. And it becomes harder and harder as more and more people are in quarantine, so getting people out of quarantine, knowing that they’re safe and don’t need to be in quarantine, is the goal,” he explained.
Caldwell’s second request is to make people who have received travel exemptions and are able to bypass quarantine, be required to get a COVID-19 test. And lastly, he has asked that travelers who do not get a pre-test before arrival, be required to take a test at the airport, and then again four days later. If both tests are negative, the individual would be released from quarantine.
“Our goal is to test as many people coming in as possible, to get them out of quarantine as quickly as possible,” Caldwell said.
With the Mayor’s second term sunsetting at the end of this month, Caldwell said he has had five or six lengthy meetings with Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi and his managing director, each lasting two or more hours, on everything from specific policies to broader discussions on governing. Caldwell said the tier system is working and he hopes it will continue.
“It projects to people what can happen if you take certain kinds of actions and what you don’t want to have happen if you let down your guard. And I’ve recommended to the mayor-elect that he keep the tier system in place, but that’s his choice,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell reflected on his two terms in office, and said he is proud of the work his administration has done to repave more than 2,300 miles of roads, rebuilding much of the city’s infrastructure, his focus on green energy initiatives, including adding electric buses to the fleet, improving parks, managing the rail project, working to reduce homelessness, and creating initiatives around climate change.
“My biggest disappointment? That I’m running out of time. That I don’t have more time to do more. And I wish I had another term to complete rail. I really do,” he said.
The Mayor said his immediate plans upon leaving office including spending time on the neighbor islands, camping, fishing, perhaps teaching, and writing one or two books – one that would be more of a textbook on public infrastructure projects, like the Honolulu rail project, and the other on unseen heroes in the pandemic. Longer term, Caldwell said he has no plans to retire.
“I’m not ready to give up on public service. I love it. And I love the executive branch more than the legislative branch, which I served in as a majority leader in the house, and so I will be looking in how I can serve in an executive level in the coming years.”
Watch a replay of the interview above or watch on our Facebook page.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.
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