For the safety of our residents, I am asking Governor Ige to quarantine all incoming tourists at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport for 14 days. Yesterday, 162 arrived and disappeared into our community, being told they were on “the honor system” to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Hawaii is home to over 1.4 million residents. Like the rest of the country, our government and economy are functioning at the bare minimum to meet public safety standards of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, tourists are still being lured to “paradise” with $75 airline price tags and non-enforceable quarantine measures. In a time of crisis and lockdown, it’s unacceptable that tourists are gallivanting across the Pacific risking the lives of residents and essential personnel for the thrill of a discounted vacation.
Just this week, a Florida man on Kauai was arrested and fined for breaking quarantine and leaving his hotel to go sightseeing. Another young woman traveled from Boston to Oahu and bragged about her empty flight and cheap vacation by posting videos and selfies to social media completely disregarding her own health as well as public safety. As long as quarantines remain a recommendation rather than a requirement, tourists can and will continue to jeopardize the health and safety of residents.
Since the severity of COVID-19 became known to the world, there have been very clear, concise recommendations made to the State of Hawaii; prohibit the disembarking of cruise ships passengers, halt tourism, frequently test healthcare workers and give incentives to non-essential workers to stay home/social distance.
New Zealand, another island nation, has rejected the notion of “containment” of COVID-19, and instead has gone the route of eliminating it. A country that welcomes 4 million tourists a year (approximately the same number of residents), completely shut down the entry of foreigners on March 19. All non-essential activities including swimming at the beach and hunting were banned, with New Zealand’s residents on full lockdown.
These direct actions by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden have clearly paid off, as the cases of infected persons have actually dropped 2 days in a row, with people recovered from the virus exceeding those infected.
Three of Hawaii’s four mayors petitioned President Trump in a letter dated April 1st to stop all non-essential travel to Hawaii to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Governor Ige can immediately implement this by quarantining all tourists at the airport for 14 days. The present honor system is ineffective and risks the spread of the virus throughout the community.
In addition, the governor can demand Air BnB and other short-term rental platforms to cease advertising Hawaii for tourism visits. He can require that car rental agencies not rent vehicles to out of town visitors unless they can prove they are here as essential workers. Further, the governor needs to require substantial documentation that those arriving by plane and claiming that they are new residents truly are moving here.
Governor Ige, for the sake of our islands, make your 14 day quarantine effective and enforceable. Visitors, unless they are essential workers, do not need to come to Hawaii. You have made hard and definite decisions, now you just must ensure that they work.