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Hawai?i Mayors Want Travel Ban. Well, Not All Mayors.

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Airplanes outside the terminal at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is urging President Donald Trump to stop all non-essential travel coming to Hawai?i in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Caldwell made the announcement yesterday after expressing frustration over visitors continuing to arrive to the islands without any plans for self-quarantine.

It’s been a week since Governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation requiring travelers from out of state – both visitors and returning residents – to quarantine for two weeks.

Since then Mayor Kirk Caldwell says Honolulu City and County services have been bogged down by unprepared travelers. 

"For example, we had three folks arrive who didn?t have a home and went to homeless shelters," says Mayor Caldwell, "And now put burden on the shelter to try to quarantine in place for 14 days where they are already stressed out and challenged. This should not occur."

Caldwell plans to send a letter to President Trump asking him to stop all non-essential travel to Hawai’i.

"No one – absolutely no one should be coming to Hawai?i for a vacation at this point," says Mayor Caldwell.

Caldwell says mayors from both Maui and Kaua’i counties have signed on and that the letter is being reviewed by Governor Ige.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim says he won?t sign it. He says the self-quarantine order already in place is more than enough of a deterrant for visitors. Kim also worried that removing a federal travel ban could prevent Hawai?i from getting back on its feet, economically.

"To lift a total ban like that takes additional time. What we have here can be lifted as soon all the documents show that its safe enough to lift the quarantine," says Mayor Kim, "And that?s the reason I told the mayor of Honolulu no, I don?t think its in the best interest of our island."

As for interisland travelers, beginning today, they will face the same quarantine restrictions as those coming from out of state. They will have to go straight from the airport to their place of lodging—and stay there.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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