Tougher restrictions will soon apply to inter-island travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to those leading Hawaii’s response to the crisis.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara told lawmakers Friday that state officials are hashing out the details to extend Hawaii’s new 14-day self-quarantine protocol, which currently applies to passengers arriving in the state, to inter-island travelers as well.
The new inter-island policy will likely include some exemptions, such as for workers who travel between islands, he added.
Hara, the state adjutant general, is the incident commander in the state’s response to the pandemic crisis.
His briefing Friday comes after some local lawmakers expressed concerns earlier in the meeting that the steps to monitor passengers arriving at the state’s airports aren’t stringent enough.
In addition to their concerns over inter-island travel, members of the Senate’s Special Committee on COVID-19 questioned why there’s still no medical screening for any passengers still landing in Hawaii.
“Just to be clear, you have no test when they deplane? They are free to go with instructions of a 14-day quarantine?” state Sen. Sharon Moriwaki pressed Ross Higashi, deputy director for the state’s Airports Division, on Friday.
“That’s correct,” Higashi replied.
The Airports Division falls under the Hawaii Department of Transportation — and it’s following the policies and protocols approved by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Higashi said.
Currently, those protocols require returning Hawaii residents, along with any visitors still arriving, to notify authorities and tourism officials of where they’re staying and then self-quarantine for 14 days.
Hara addressed those plans for medical screening at the airports during a press conference Saturday.
“We’re still in the planning phases for that,” Hara said Saturday.
“Because we’re doing the self-quarantine now, we really don’t need it, right? Because everyone’s going into quarantine,” he said. “But we are still moving forward with a plan should we (leave) the 14-day quarantine to have the ability to set up medical screening at the airport.”
Air passenger arrivals have plunged at the airport. On Thursday, some 1,600 passengers landed in Hawaii, Higashi told the committee. Usually, on average, the state sees about 35,000 passengers a day arrive, he added.
State Sen. Donna Kim brought up neighbor island residents’ concerns over the self-quarantine exemption on interisland travel.
She encouraged the Airports Division to set up a system that would allow residents whose travel didn’t originate outside Hawaii to bypass the quarantine. She asked for the Airports Division to be more proactive, acting within the intent of Hara’s protocols and procedures.
So far, there haven’t been any reported cases of COVID-19 on Molokai or Lanai.
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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