Mayors Plan To Supplement Hawaii Online Visitor Tracker

Sep 30, 2020

Hawaii officials are making final updates to an online application for collecting traveler information to enforce public safety measures related to the coronavirus.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino said they plan to supplement the state Safe Travels pre-arrival program with additional data and personnel to verify traveler information, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

The Safe Travels testing program is scheduled to begin Oct. 15.

Travelers are required to complete an online application and receive codes resembling square bar codes. Airport officials will use the codes to review passenger information for clearance or secondary screening.

The information can be used by Hawaii officials including police to check on visitors who did not obtain negative COVID-19 test results prior to arrival and are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Safe Travels is meant to simplify a process that has required different forms for interisland and trans-Pacific travel.

The mayors said Safe Travels does not provide as much real-time visitor information as they would have liked for contact tracing and for enforcing emergency orders. They said the application still cannot verify addresses and they are not sure how the application will verify negative COVID-19 tests.

The new system so far has failed to deliver all the features state officials said would be included during the early days of development, such as allowing GPS tracking to locate visitors' phones or computers.

Visitors can access the application built on a Google cloud computing system only using email, Google or Facebook logins. Those in quarantine without access to smartphones or a computers or in rural areas with poor connectivity must make daily calls to authorities.

Kim said those shortcomings, among others, have led to greater inconveniences for travelers and county civil defense officials.

“You’d be surprised how many times phone numbers don’t work, addresses are bogus, and it’s a difficult thing to check on a person’s exemption status," Kim said.

Oahu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.