HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Thursday, all visitors and returning residents to Hawaii will be required to complete a mandatory, 14-day quarantine in what the governor on Saturday called an “extreme action" aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii.
The mandate stops short of the shutdown that a number of Hawaii leaders had been calling for, but the governor and state emergency officials believe it will effectively bring tourism in the islands to a standstill.
“We need to come together as a community to fight this virus,” Ige said, adding that the quarantine rule would be in effect indefinitely.
“This mandate is the first of its kind in the nation. We want this action to send the message to visitors and residents alike that we appreciate their love for Hawaii but we are asking them to postpone their visit."
State officials said the delay in the quarantine going into effect was aimed at giving people time to postpone upcoming travel and to prevent chaos and large crowds at airports.
Here’s how the governor said the mandate would work:
- Visitors would be responsible for any costs associated with quarantine.
- Those who break quarantine would face a $5,000 fine and a year in jail. However, Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the state’s adjutant general, acknowledged “we think it’s going to be very difficult to enforce this.”
- The quarantine would apply to international and mainland flights. Inter-island travel is not affected.
- The mandate would not apply to emergency responders and other essential workers, including those who are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. It would also not apply to flight crews.
- Residents would quarantine in their homes.
- The rule would not apply to any of the visitors already in Hawaii.
When asked why he wasn’t instituting a broader shutdown or shelter-in-place order, Ige said he could take that action if the virus continues to spread.
“Mandatory staying in your homes is an extreme measure that we may implement here,” he said. “But it really is appropriate when there is widespread community spread of the virus.”
He added, “I would like to remind everyone that it’s in our best interest that we voluntarily self-isolate right now. We can do that. We all need to take action that we have within our powers to self-isolate.”
Mayor Kirk Caldwell, representatives from the hotel industry and Hawaiian Airlines and others attended the news conference Saturday to offer their support for the quarantine measures.
Caldwell said the mandate was “appropriate” and would keep people safe. “These are the most difficult times the state of Hawaii, the Territory of Hawaii, the Kingdom of Hawaii has ever faced,” he said.
The news comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii continues to grow by double digits.
On Sunday, the U.S. Marines confirmed a Hawaii-based Marine tested positive after returning from the mainland for training. The Marine returned to the islands Friday and went to Tripler for treatment after symptoms developed.
The Marine is in quarantine in off-base quarters.
On Sunday, the state announced eight new cases, bringing the total to 56 ― up from just seven last weekend. Of the cases reported so far, three people have been hospitalized. No one has died, according to health officials.
The Army also announced a soldier with the 25th Infantry Battalion based in Hawaii tested positive for coronavirus, the first case linked to the Army community in Hawaii. The soldier is in isolation.
Hawaiian Airlines said one of its employees had also tested positive.
And thousands turned out Saturday for a one-day, drive-thru testing site in Kakaako. At least 250 were tested.
On Friday, the state Health Department reported what many had been dreading: That the virus was actively spreading in the community.
Two of the cases reported Friday were in individuals who had not done any recent travel.
It was a dramatic new development that bolstered calls for the governor to institute stricter measures aimed at locking down the state and stopping travel to the islands.
“We have been talking about community spread for a long time. It’s beginning. It’s starting,” said state Health Department Director Bruce Anderson, in a conference call with reporters.
“It’s not just that it might happen. It is happening now.”
Even before community transmission of the virus was announced, though, the governor was getting mounting pressure to institute a state lockdown and require visitors to go into quarantine.
- Full coverage: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
The widening spread of the virus has alarmed public health officials who say hospitals in the islands are already beginning to feel the effects and protective gear is in short supply.
WIDESPREAD IMPACTS OF PANDEMIC:
Earlier this week, instead of a statewide directive, Ige asked visitors to stay away for 30 days ― a request that so far hasn’t stopped tourists from crowding onto beaches.
The counties have also taken their own steps to contain the virus.
On Oahu, restaurants have been ordered to end all dine-in service, all city parks are closed and emergency and essential services have taken steps to protect employees.
Meanwhile on Kauai, a nighttime curfew went into effect Friday night and restaurants and bars have been ordered to go to take-out or delivery only.
Hawaii public schools, meanwhile, are closed through at least April 6, and universities and private schools are on break or having students work remotely.