Governor noncommittal on next steps for schools, trans-Pacific travel plans

The inside of a classroom at Fern Elementary School in Hawaii.
The inside of a classroom at Fern Elementary School in Hawaii.(Instagram/Hawaii Dept. of Education)
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 5:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A sweeping set of new restrictions designed to prevent further spread of the coronavirus are set to go into effect across Hawaii over the course of the coming days ― but questions about the future of at least two major state operations remain unanswered.

During a news conference Tuesday, as coronavirus cases across the state continue to soar, Gov. David Ige declined to address how the latest set of measures designed to prevent large gatherings would apply to Hawaii’s public schools, or to his plans to re-open trans-Pacific travel, with new testing protocols in place, on Sept. 1.

“Does this automatically push back the opening of schools, because it doesn’t seem to make sense to have a bunch of kids going back to school when you’ve got this going on,” a reporter asked the governor during the press conference.

“Certainly, I’ve been talking with the superintendent and we are monitoring the situation, we’ll be discussing this specifically and making an announcement specific to schools, as well as the University of Hawaii, soon.”

When pressed by Hawaii News Now about why he was declining to make an announcement about schools, even though classrooms would likely qualify as the sort of gatherings the new orders were being implemented to prevent, Ige said his administration simply wasn’t ready to look that far ahead ― even though students are due back in school on Aug. 17.

“We are looking at a number of things, there’s a lot of details that would go into a specific announcement,” Ige said. “The question is would we stop, for example, the training that is occurring separate from the students. There are a lot of details and employees that are at schools, and we would have to work through the details of who would be impacted and who wouldn’t.”

And while most of the closures enacted Thursday are slated to last into September, indicating that health officials believe flattening the curve in Hawaii will require vigilance well into next month, Ige also declined to say whether he was pushing back plans to allow travelers who produce negative coronavirus tests to fly into Hawaii without quarantining, starting Sept. 1.

“We are evaluating what the conditions are and will be talking with the health department, as well as the mayors, and we will make an announcement about a September 1 as soon as possible, within the next week or so,” Ige said.

The governor did take some action on travel on Thursday, electing to reinstate the mandatory 14-day quarantine on most inter-island flights ― meaning anyone arriving by air on any island except Oahu will be required to self-isolate for two weeks.

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