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Mandatory quarantine for arrivals begins

Few people flying in, out of Kahului Airport

A group of travelers walk across the street to the ticket counters Thursday morning at Kahului Airport. Ticket lobby traffic was sparse. Porters sat with no passengers to serve and several Hawaiian Airlines ticket lobby workers stood alone, waiting for travelers to arrive. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

KAHULUI — Travelers were minimal at state airports Thursday, including Kahului Airport, during the first day of the state ordered 14-day quarantine for incoming out-of-state travelers, including returning residents.

“The process is actually going very well,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara during a news conference Thursday on Oahu.

He began his remarks by saying that “this has never been done in the state of Hawaii” and that the state is the first in the nation to take the action.

Officials were in place at arrival gates Thursday, checking passengers’ personal information and informing them of the quarantine, Sakahara said.

Gov. David Ige’s order took effect as the U.S. total of reported coronavirus cases of about 85,000 topped those of all other countries Thursday. There are 106 cases in Hawaii — with 14 of them on Maui as of Thursday.

With Ige’s order, visitors must quarantine in their hotel room or rented lodging and residents must remain at their home for 14 days. People under quarantine only may leave their homes or lodging for medical emergencies or to seek medical care and not venture out to public places, such as pools and restaurants, or to go shopping.

Failure to follow the order is a misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, imprisonment of one year, or both.

Earlier this week, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino discussed the possibility of establishing a place for returning residents to quarantine before they come into contact with their families.

On Thursday, Maui County spokesman Chris Sugidono said that the county is working with the state adjutant general, Kenneth Hara; the state Department of Transportation; and other agencies on the requirements of the mandated 14-day quarantine order.

“We continue to ask all visitors to not fly to Maui County at this time, and our returning residents to limit their contact with others as much as possible,” he said.

Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said Thursday morning that he expected around 16 flights from out of state to arrive at Kahului Airport that day, but that the number may change because individual airlines could cancel flights.

Moniz said he expected and has been seeing passenger counts in the “double digits” or less for individual flights with planes that have a carrying capacity in the hundreds.

If a traveler is really sick and coughing, Kahului Airport does have protective gear for individuals to wear and a paramedic to handle those types of cases, Moniz said.

On Thursday afternoon, Sakahara noted that some flights into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Oahu were empty or had fewer than 10 people. He did not have a count of arrivals but said “the passenger numbers are very low.”

One of the larger flights had 54 people, but the majority of passengers did not disembark because it was a layover flight, he said.

Latest arrival data for Maui show that the number of flyers — visitors and residents — from U.S. Mainland and international locations Tuesday was 399, down 93.1 percent compared to the same day in 2019, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

On March 16, Maui logged 4,513 out-of-state arrivals, which still was off 20 percent from the same day in 2019.

The next day, Ige strongly encouraged visitors to postpone their vacations for at least the next 30 days. On Saturday, Ige announced the mandatory quarantine.

As for the quarantine process, Sakahara said at the news conference that out-of-state flights are greeted by officials at the arrival gate. The official takes the passengers’ agricultural declaration form, which are reviewed, and hands them an informational sheet on the quarantine and what to do if they feel sick, Sakahara said.

The official at the gate also confirms traveler personal information on their forms with their personal identification. The forms are then scanned with the information passed on to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which contacts the place of lodging of the flyer.

Random calls may be made to the hotel to make sure the traveler is obeying the quarantine, Sakahara said.

On Thursday morning, the Kahului Airport baggage claim was empty and porters occupied their time by looking at their cellphones. The largest group heading to the ticket counters consisted of five people.

Nearby, Hawaiian Airlines ticket agents stood ready to help the few visitors. An airport worker said that only the Starbucks and the Plantation Store were open; everything else at the airport was closed.

“Hardly anyone coming through,” said the worker, who was not authorized to speak to the media.

Maui Hotel & Lodging Association Executive Director Rod Antone said that all of their properties, which include the larger resorts in the county, were informed about the mandatory quarantine and that the organization has been in touch with multiple agencies.

Every day, new questions come up for properties, including such things as how visitors will be fed during room service.

Antone said he was advised by the state Department of Health that the hotels should use disposable items to minimize the need for workers to pick up dishes from hotel rooms.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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