Hawaii Updates: Case Total Now At 175; State Plans Tighter Interisland Travel

Mar 29, 2020

Hawaii's coronavirus case count now stands at 175, according to the state health department's latest update. The number of positive and presumptive positive cases represents an increase of 24 from Saturday. Oahu now has a total of 123 coronavirus cases, Maui 20, Kauai 12 and the Big Island 12. 

Six cases are pending county of diagnosis or residency and two residents were diagnosed out of state. Twelve of the total cases have required hospitalization. There are no locally reported fatalities from COVID-19. Hawaii and Wyoming are the only states without coronavirus deaths as of Sunday afternoon.

A Honolulu firefighter has tested positive for the coronavirus, the Honolulu Fire Department confirmed. The firefighter was on personal leave when he contracted the virus. Other personnel were not exposed, according to the department. HFD provided no other details in a news release.

Interisland travel restrictions planned

The Hawaii emergency management agency says it is planning tighter restrictions on interisland travel after state senators called for quarantine requirements to be applied to travelers who arrive at interisland airports and small boat harbors.

Gov. David Ige's emergency order requiring visitors and returning residents to quarantine for 14 days have not applied equally to interisland travelers, opening a gap in the state's efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

At a Senate committee Friday, state Sen. Donna Kim said residents of Molokai and Lanai, which have not had any reported COVID-19 cases, are worried that interisland travelers are not under the quarantine restrictions and not filling out the agriculture forms that provide information on where the visitors are staying.

Ken Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said the decision has been made to cover interisland travel under restrictions for domestic and international arrivals and planning is underway for that.

He explained some logistical questions need to be resolved, such as how essential workers flying interisland who are exempted from quarantine will be identified. He said the state needs an statewide list of exemptions because it can be confusing with each county having its own.

Maui County's list of exempted workers issued as a supplemental guidance by Mayor Michael Victorino last week, details who is exempt from the island's stay-at-home emergency rules, but a similar statewide list hasn't been created.

Hara said airlines would also be impacted if passenger loads drop and that could have the unintended effect of cutting off flights carrying cargo.

When the interisland restrictions are rolled out, Hara said 100% of travelers will be tested for fever. That effort will require temporal scanners, and there is debate about the effectiveness of such testing. But he said Taiwam reported catching a high number of positive cases with the screening and that was good enough for him to go forward.

Currently, only flight crew members are scanned for fevers.

Senators also questioned whether there are enough safeguards in place to ensure visitors are abiding by the 14-day quarantine. Hara said the Hawaii Tourisim Authority is calling hotels, and periodically individuals, to ensure the travelers are in compliance.

He said HIEMA has evaluated mobile apps similar to one used in South Korea that requires those subject to quarantine to check in with officials.

Hara was also asked about the state's 17 small boat harbors where ocean craft have been allowed to arrive without restrictions. State Sen. Sharon Moriwaki said according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, both the department and federal customs and border officials are monitoring the harbors. But she said that is not being carried out 24/7.

"That is a gap that needs follow up on," Hara acknowledged.