Caldwell says police can’t ‘babysit’ quarantined travelers, calls on state to improve system

Updated: May. 14, 2020 at 3:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday shot back at several state lawmakers who suggested Honolulu police could be doing more to enforce the mandatory quarantine on travelers.

Instead, he said, the state should be ensuring visitors don’t leave the airport unless they have a hotel to stay at for 14 days or a family taking them in for the period. They shouldn’t be staying at vacation rentals, which were forced to cease operations under emergency orders, and certainly shouldn’t be going to Oahu homeless shelters, he said.

“The Honolulu Police Department cannot babysit someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is an insane way to deal with this issue,” a visibly irked Caldwell said, at a news conference.

He added police also can’t “profile” people on beaches based on their ethnicities to see if they’re tourists.

Caldwell’s comments come amid increasing friction between the city and state over how the mandatory quarantine is being enforced. Earlier this week, state lawmakers suggested police should be doing more to address the issue.

At a legislative hearing Thursday, lawmakers also expressed concern about police not enforcing emergency orders prohibiting gatherings or people sitting on the beach.

“The police department has not wanted to enforce people sitting on the beach even when lifeguards were calling for enforcement,” said state Sen. Michelle Kidani, at the hearing.

The state has also pointed to improvements it’s made to the quarantine system, which requires visitors to stay indoors for 14 days after landing in the islands. An inter-island quarantine is also in place.

On Wednesday, 246 visitors and 329 residents landed in Hawaii. The vast majority came to Oahu.

In recent weeks, a handful of visitors have been arrested for breaking quarantine, and some have been put on planes returning to the mainland.

But state officials acknowledge that it’s unlikely most visitors are coming to Hawaii to sit in a hotel room for 14 days.

Caldwell and others have expressed concern about quarantine enforcement as the number of visitors coming to the islands tick up daily. They say the system needs to be ready now for a potential surge in travelers.

Also Thursday, Caldwell said he supports an extension of the quarantine for inter-island travel through June 30.

This story will be updated.

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