During airport tour, lawmakers find loopholes in mandatory quarantine for visitors

During airport tour, lawmakers find loopholes in mandatory quarantine for visitors

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State senators on Friday saw firsthand the efforts to try to discourage tourists from breaking quarantine.

The group toured Honolulu’s airport one day after grilling the deputy director of the Transportation Department about not doing enough to keep visitors inside their hotel rooms for the required 14 days.

The senators were there as flights arrived.

They witnessed the screening process, which includes temperature checks, phone verification process, and requires each visitor sign forms explaining that they could be arrested if they break the rules.

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim pointed out a problem with that.

“They just sign. They’re not even reading what they’re signing,” she said, adding that the Hawaii Tourism Authority should add a verbal agreement instead of just requiring the signature.

Airport screening
Airport screening (Source: HI Dept. of Transportation)

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz said one loophole was particularly concerning.

“The amount of visitors that are coming through and are not staying the 14 days. They have a hotel reservations but the hotel reservation is only for one night,” he said.

Dela Cruz said that makes it difficult for the tourism authority to keep track of them after that first night.

“But because they meet the minimum qualifications they get through the process,” he said.

Dela Cruz said he will ask the state Attorney General’s Office to review a minimum 14-day stay for visitors.

More than 300 tourists statewide have been caught violating the rules and have been referred to law enforcement. Some have been sent back, others have been cited or arrested.

A homeless man arrived on an Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles as senators were beginning the tour.

The man did not have accommodations and during screening agreed that he would turn around and return to the mainland.

“There were several people coming from different cities who were actually homeless,” Dela Cruz said.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella said sheriffs deputies told him that happens more than once a day.

With states starting to reopen and cheap flights advertised, tourism numbers are expected to climb by June.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants to require all visitors be tested 72 hours prior to arrival in Hawaii.

“It’s much better that that gets done there because once we start getting thousands of tourists there’s no way to do enough rapid tests," he said.

The senators are still pushing for a quarantine hotel — someplace all visitors have to stay through the 14 day period. The idea has been discussed for weeks but no decision has been made.

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