Kayla Damo and Kai Ruperti knew they would have to go into a 14-day quarantine even before stepping on a plane Thursday to catch a flight home to Hawaii from Eugene, Oregon.
Damo and Ruperti are both students at New Hope Christian College, which last week moved instruction online and had students relocate if they are able.
“I think I might go insane, at least my work is online,” Damo says, as she grabs her bags off a nearly empty baggage carousel at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
“It’s not going to end anytime soon,” Ruperti says.
Damo and Ruperti aren’t alone. Hundreds of passengers who got off airplanes statewide on Thursday now find themselves in a government mandated quarantine. The penalties for violating the order include a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Residents returning home must stay there, and any tourists who still choose to come must remain in their hotel rooms or wherever they’re staying. But how that will be enforced is questionable.
Civil Beat talked to a number of returning residents Thursday and all said they planned to honor the quarantine and stay at home. Hotels, with assistance from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, will call hotel rooms at random times to check on the quarantined visitors, according to Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
It’s not clear how many residents and visitors need to isolate themselves due to the quarantine. The state did not immediately have updated numbers.
The few flights that weren’t cancelled disembarked passengers to an airport with more workers than travelers. Some flights had just nine people on them, according to a baggage attendant. Sakahara said there were a few planes with only one person on them.
Upon arrival, all travelers had to hand their agricultural declaration forms to a transportation official, Sakahara said at an afternoon press conference.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that visitors are taken to the Hawaii Convention Center before going to their hotels. After a screening, visitors must find their own transportation to their hotels.
If hotel staff find guests breaking the quarantine, they’ve been told to call police, according to HTA.
Enforcement is less clear for residents. While the screening process also included checking I.D.’s for addresses, enforcing the quarantine is largely left up to each county’s police department.
However, it appeared most residents, even new ones, are heeding advice of government officials.
Amy Cartwright and her husband, Dave Pullman, are relocating to Maui after Pullman landed a job with the state. The move has been planned since January, Cartwright says, but was complicated by the coronavirus.
The couple just spent several weeks under a shelter-in-place order in Marin County, California. Now, they’ll be under a stricter quarantine in their new home on Maui. Cartwright came wearing a mask, a courtesy to fellow travelers since she believes California’s Bay Area is likely saturated with cases.
“We’ve been scrambling to get here before they shut everything down,” Cartwright said of airline cancellations.
They’ve arranged for friends to pick up groceries for them and leave it at their door. Their landlord has also helped set up parts of the house for their move, Cartwright said.
“That’ll be our life for now,” Cartwright said, “In isolation.”
Tourism In Decline
Passenger counts were already dwindling weeks before Gov. David Ige announced the quarantine Sunday. Passenger arrivals to the islands began falling March 2, and they’ve fallen every day since then.
Only around 4,100 people flew to the state on Tuesday, the most recent date for which the state has data, compared to 32,000 the same time last year.
It’s believed that the majority of those arrivals are returning residents. Travel agency bookings began falling at the start of March and were near zero last week, according to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Waikiki on Thursday was virtually devoid of tourists, except for a few scofflaws who ignored park closures to tan on the beach or surf.
At least 80 hotels already closed or plan to close this week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Most major airlines have either halted or limited flights to Hawaii.
The hotel industry has already offered its help to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. HTA President Chris Tatum told a panel of lawmakers Tuesday that HTA will focus on helping tourists still here get on any available flights and enforce the quarantine.
“Nobody wants to be here on vacation right now,” Tatum said. “It’s not pleasant.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell