The government of Hawaii has just cost my wife and I a highly anticipated vacation, a celebration of my birthday there, two long travel days and several thousand dollars in plane fares — plus a level of extreme aggravation that will last a long, long time and cause us to reconsider any future Hawaii vacation plans.
We have traveled all the way from Michigan two to three times most years since purchasing timeshares there 15 years ago. We love Hawaii and would rather vacation there than almost anywhere else. But when Gov. David Ige imposed a quarantine on visitors (and returning residents), it forced us to postpone plans and cancel booked flights and reservations several times, while it remained in place for weeks that turned into months.
Who would spend time and money to travel to Hawaii only to be locked in a room? Not us. Probably not anyone. So we have enjoyed mini-vacations in Arizona, California, Colorado and Florida instead. Disappointing for us, but devastating for Hawaii’s hugely important tourist business and everyone whose livelihoods depend on it.
We understand the fear of visitors bringing coronavirus to the islands. We know this disease makes some very sick and kills an unfortunate few. But mandated measures to prevent its spread must be reasonable and science-based, as in most other states. They must not be more damaging, including to public health, than the disease.
As most know, on Oct. 15, Ige finally put in place a provision for visitors to avoid his quarantine by providing COVID-negative test results within 72 hours of departure for the islands. So we followed that process for an October visit, filled out online forms, uploaded our test results and received a “QR” code indicating that our results had been accepted. We enjoyed that visit, so planned another for mid-January.
The same process, same online form, same tests by the same facility resulted in emailed “Safe Travels QR” codes from firstname.lastname@example.org indicating (we thought) that we were good to go, just as in October. After a long day of travel, we arrived at the Honolulu airport looking forward to our stay and celebrating my birthday the next day.
But the woman at the desk checked her list of authorized COVID test “partners,” and our provider — Sparrow Hospital, the largest medical complex in mid-Michigan, which had done our previous tests that worked fine in October — somehow was not on it. What? We were clearly COVID-free with documents to prove it! Was there anyone who could review them and make a decision? Nope. Sparrow is not on Hawaii’s list. Quarantine in your room.
I’m normally slow to anger, but this idiotic, nonnegotiable verdict made me so mad that a security guard threatened to arrest me. Just go to your timeshare, he said, stay in your room (up to $5,000 fine and a year in jail if you don’t), then go home tomorrow or whenever you choose. But once you’re quarantined, you can’t rent a car to get anywhere. We booked a return flight that got us home, still seething with anger, the next evening, my birthday. Then booked a trip to Florida.
Again, we understand the reason for quarantine, but not the mindless way it is being administered. If Hawaii is going to reject test results, it must do that before people get on a plane, not after arrival. Does anyone review submitted test results before issuing QR codes? Can’t someone with authority and a functioning brain be available to review such cases and decide on them? Why is mid-Michigan’s largest hospital not on the “partners” list? Bye-bye, Hawaii. It’s been nice until now.
Gary Witzenburg is an automotive writer and a former auto engineer and engineering manager.