Hawaii Updates: Two-Week Quarantine For Visitors, Returning Residents Starts Thursday

3 hours ago

Quarantine for visitors, returning residents start Thursday

Hawaii's major industry is bracing for what could be a virtual shutdown of tourism as Gov. David Ige's order for a 14-day quarantine covering all arrivals takes effect Thursday.

Under the emergency proclamation Ige announced yesterday, visitors and returning residents will be required to quarantine themselves in their hotel rooms or homes for two weeks when they arrive in the islands. 

The order won't be easily enforced, acknowledged Ken Hara, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency director. When tourists deplane, they will be handed a copy of the order and told they will need to confine themselves to their hotel rooms.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expects once visitors hear about the quarantine, they will change their plans and stay away from the state. But he said if the city learns of anyone violating the order, police will take appropriate action. Failure to comply can bring a misdemeanor fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.

Even before the announcement, Hawaii arrivals had slowed significantly as worries of travel during the coronavirus pandemic spread. Data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism show domestic passenger counts plummeting beginning around March 13.

Credit Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

The governor's quarantine order comes two days after word that state Sen. Clarence Nishihara had tested positive for the coronavirus, the first legislator known to have contracted the illness.

House Speaker Scott Saiki then released a scathing critique of the state's response to the spreading pandemic, calling Ige's voluntary steps for dealing with the virus "utterly chaotic" and appealing to him for a 15-day shutdown of the islands.

His letter was followed by similar appeals from the state Senate committee on COVID-19, Honolulu City Council and others. 

See yesterday's updates: Governor orders quarantine for visitors, returning residens; Army has first service member case

Reports of local residents driving along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki urging visitors to go home and tourists turned away from popular Two Step beach on the Big Island reflected growing frustration with the state's coronavirus response.

Ige said yesterday he did not feel pressured to order the quarantine, which he described as the first in the nation.

The order does not call for residents to shelter-in-place, a requirement that such states as California and New York have imposed. The governor said a stay-at-home mandate is appropriate where there is wide spread infection in the community.

So far, according to state health officials, there is no indication that COVID-19 has spread broadly in the community. Of the 48 cases of confirmed and presumed positive cases reported, all have been travel-related and one remains under investigation. About 260 randomly selected specimens submitted by health providers as part of a community sentinel program have turned up negative.

One concerning development among the military: the Marine Corps on Sunday reported its first coronavirus case in Hawaii. The Marine is stationed at Camp Smith. The Army reported yesterday its first service member has tested positive for the coronavirus and two Tripler Army Medical Center employees have come down with the illness. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.