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Ige to require quarantine for interisland flyers

Questions still linger over how to enforce new 14-day self-quarantine

TIM SAKAHARA – State DOT spokesman

All interisland travelers will need to self-quarantine for 14 days under new rules that will start Wednesday through April 30, Gov. David Ige announced Monday afternoon.

The governor said that he planned to sign an emergency proclamation mandating the 14-day self-quarantine. Essential workers will still be able to travel for essential business and operations, but they will need to wear personal protective equipment during flights.

The move follows the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state arrivals that began Thursday.

“It is working already,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara. “If nothing else in the sense that the passenger arrivals have drastically reduced.”

March is typically a busy month for Hawaii due to spring break, Sakahara said. Last year at this time, there were more than 33,000 people a day flying into Hawaii; now, those numbers are down more than 95 percent.

On Sunday, 826 people arrived by air, including 662 on Oahu, 74 on Maui, 73 in Kona and 17 in Lihue, according the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Most were residents (325) and crew (229), while 167 were visitors, 71 were in transit and 34 were intended residents.

Sakahara said that arriving passengers are required to fill out an agriculture declaration form that is turned in to a representative upon leaving the plane. The representative checks the passenger’s ID, confirms the information on the form and their place of lodging. The forms are sent to state tourism officials who will notify the hotel and then make random phone calls over the course of those 14 days to ensure the person is in quarantine.

However, keeping tabs on visitors confined in hotels is one thing; tracking residents who are traveling between islands and staying in the homes of friends and family is another. State officials did not have answers as to how they planned to enforce quarantine for interisland travelers. They also didn’t know what process residents would have to follow if they wanted to travel interisland, how an interisland screening process would work, whether the quarantine would apply to travel between any island or just between counties, and whether people would be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival to another island as well as upon return to their home island.

“While I certainly understand the urgency and know that your readers need this information quickly, we simply don’t have it and won’t until the governor signs the supplemental emergency proclamation,” governor spokeswoman Cindy McMillan said Monday afternoon. “We will let you know as soon as that happens.”

Neighbor Island residents must often travel to Oahu, and having to be quarantined for 14 days could be difficult for people making weekend trips. When asked what these residents should do, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, head of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said that “we’re still looking into that.”

“What we want to do is limit the amount of contact that you have or those individuals have with the public,” Hara said. “We’re also discussing with some of the companies, like HECO is an example when they send out their teams to do maintenance work. Bottom line is I need to get back (to you) on that.”

Sakahara said that quarantine for interisland travelers would last either 14 days or the length of their trip. Medical appointments are among the likely exemptions, but people shouldn’t be traveling between islands simply to go shopping or visit relatives. Even funerals should be postponed if possible.

“This is not necessarily the time to be visiting family,” Sakahara said. “That’s the whole point — that people are supposed to stay at home and work from home to prevent the spread. . . . Any of that nonessential travel should not be done, whether interisland, domestic or international.”

While many details are still up in the air, Sakahara said it was crucial for the state to move quickly.

“Two days, four days, six days, there could be a huge difference in things that happen or develop in a case like this,” he said. “Everyone’s trying to be prudent and work as quickly as possible in order to prevent that spread or transmission.”

He suggested that anyone with questions about exempt activities should email covidexemption@hawaii.gov.

Meanwhile, airlines offering interisland flights said that they planned to continue operating.

“Hawaiian Airlines is proud to have carried workers who perform essential services for decades,” said airline spokesman Alex Da Silva. “During this unusual and difficult period, we will work to make sure we maintain a Neighbor Island schedule that can accommodate the vital needs of our community.”

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said that the airline is “evaluating how these additional protocols will affect our interisland operation and the demand for essential air service to consider any short-term business changes.

“Southwest intends a long-term relationship with the Hawaiian Islands, and we are proud to serve our communities with much more than flights,” Hawkins said. “Today and every day, we stand alongside our local employees and the people of Hawaii with a shared interest in protecting the health and safety of all residents of the islands.”

Makani Kai Air President Richard Schuman said the airline doesn’t plan on eliminating any routes or trips to Molokai, but that things could change by the day. He said that flights to Molokai have dropped from 17 to 21 a day to two.

However, Schuman said that the airline has worked out a deal with Mokulele so that if one flight has only a handful of passengers, Makani Kai will send them to Mokulele and vice versa.

“Every day we call each other and say, ‘How many people do you have this time or this flight,’ and if I have only two people going over and they have four empty seats, then I give my people to them,” Schuman said. “So we’ve been trading back and forth for awhile, working together for the Molokai people.”

Mokulele Airlines said Sunday that it was reducing its schedule but still planned to service all of its airports. The new schedule starts Wednesday and is expected to last until May 13. It will offer 54 daily flights and maintains service between six Maui and Kalawao county airports and locations across the state.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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