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Quarantine enforcement impeded by lag in getting traveler data from state tourism agency

Mayor Harry Kim said Tuesday that county police aren’t receiving in a timely manner the names of interisland travelers subjected to a mandatory 14-day quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic and where they are staying.

And that’s a concern, since the counties have been assigned the task of enforcing the quarantine.

Arriving interisland air passengers are required to fill out an interisland declaration form — essentially an abbreviated version of the state agricultural declaration required of incoming passengers from out of state.

The data collected from the forms at all of the state’s airports go to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which inputs it into a database. Hawaii County Civil Defense has access to that database. The police, who are responsible for actual enforcement of the quarantine, do not.

Neither Kim nor Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno know precisely how long it takes for the information from those forms to be inputted and passed along to them.

“The present situation is that it’s not until after 24 hours (from the arrival of passengers) that the names are given to us,” Kim said. He added by the time the info is received, enforcement is “nearly impossible.”

“When they collect the information, it goes to people, but it does not go directly to the police department — and, above all, it’s not timely when they get it,” he said.

Police Chief Paul Ferreira said Monday he hadn’t seen any information about arriving passengers at that point, and added the department doesn’t have the resources to take proactive enforcement measures concerning the quarantine, such as compliance checks or stakeouts of hotel rooms or other lodging.

“The enforcement of the mandatory quarantine would be reactionary on our part, in the event we are notified of violations, such as through Department of Health, Hawaii Tourism Authority, etc.,” Ferreira said in an email.

As of noon Tuesday, there were 410 COVID-19 coronavirus cases in Hawaii, including 23 new cases. Hawaii County had 23 reported cases, none of them new, according to the DOH.

Kim said that despite the information deficit, he’s optimistic measures already taken, including the mandatory quarantine of arriving passengers — both from out-of-state and interisland — are having an effect in slowing the spread of the highly contagious, potentially deadly virus.

“When you get the daily report from the Department of Transportation, it will tell you how many people disembarked in Kona and Hilo, how many of them were returning residents, how many of them were quote-unquote visitors, and how many of them were flight crew,” Kim said. “And if I remember correctly, (Monday) in Kona, it was 30-something … total. That included crew. That included people that are visitors. And that included residents. Two visitors to Kona … six or seven were returning residents. The rest of them were flight crew, stuff like that.

“You can see with those numbers, it’s very manageable.”

There are exceptions to the interisland quarantine order, including those traveling for medical or health care and for work deemed essential, if they wear appropriate protective gear and follow social distancing requirements.

Other interisland travelers are required to self-quarantine whenever they’re not performing essential functions. During the quarantine period, travelers are supposed to remain at home or at their lodging. They cannot visit stores or restaurants and must have food delivered to their quarantine location. Nor can they receive visitors.

Those who complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine are still subject to the statewide stay-at-home order in effect through April.

Kim praised Gov. David Ige for requiring that visitors to Hawaii be quarantined.

“By the time that word got out, I can tell you, people started canceling their flights,” he said. “It was a dramatic cut down. And if you look at the Honolulu report — zero passengers from Japan. And you can see the economic impact, for sure. I thought that was such a bold move, because the governor knew how that was going to hurt the (economy), but he did it anyway.”

The mayor described enforcement of the interisland visitor quarantine as “a daunting task.”

“But this can be done if we get the information the police chief said he needs,” Kim concluded.

Email John Burnett at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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