State forges ahead with plan to reopen tourism with testing, despite potential loophole

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Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:15 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The plan to relax quarantine restrictions and reopen Hawaii’s tourism industry starts in about a month, but many say a big loophole still exists.

Come Aug. 1, travelers who come to Hawaii with proof of a negative COVID-19 test ― taken no more than 72 hours before arrival ― won’t be subject to quarantine.

But there’s no clear plan to make sure those who don’t get tested actually isolate themselves.

State Attorney General Clare Connors did say a new database for law enforcement should be ready once the new regulations take effect.

“Everybody who is not subject to the quarantine, that is somebody who has pretested or done the pre-travel testing, is not going to be in the database,” she said.

The database will be updated by the state Department of Transportation, Department of Health and law enforcement agencies.

“To ensure that the system is able to process individuals and be able to tell the counties in, as close to real time as we can make it, who’s subject to the travel quarantine and who needs to be identified for enforcement purposes,” she said.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said an app would also be part of the tracking technology.

“We actually use an application in our work at the facilities where we are quarantining and isolating patients, actually requires that they check in several times a day we know their whereabouts,” he said.

But will the systems be ready in time ― or prepared for a wave of visitors?

Hawaii has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and could be the first choice destination because of that.

“We do worry that if we’re going to be into the thousands per day, which will probably happen very quickly, it’s going to put an undue stress on the system,” Anderson said.

State officials say the quarantine has worked, with dozens of cheaters jailed or fined. The policy has gotten national attention as a model to keep the virus from spiking.

“We check on people where they’re going what they’re doing and we have people spot checking to be sure they are where they say they’ll be,” said Anderson.

The Facebook group, Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers, has helped law enforcement track down violators. Angela Keen, administrator of the watchdog group, said it will be difficult when the rules change.

“It’s going to be almost impossible,” she said.

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