Auditors find lack of planning, coordination in traveler quarantine program

New thermal cameras now helping scan passengers in Hawaii’s airports
New thermal cameras now helping scan passengers in Hawaii’s airports
Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state prepares to launch a traveler testing program Thursday to reboot tourism, a new audit is raising questions about the state’s oversight of its quarantine mandate and how it will be managed once federal funds run out in December.

Auditors reviewed the state’s traveler quarantine program, which was instituted in March and required travelers to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in the islands.

As many have suspected, the audit concluded that the program was largely an “honor” system dependent on the deterrent effect of potential penalties.

But more alarmingly, auditors found a lack of planning and coordination to improve oversight and program management ― and to prepare for the end of federal funds for the program.

“An absence of near-range and long-term planning raises questions about the program’s future even as the state anticipates an imminent increase in arrivals,” the audit said.

It also said passenger screening will be handed off to the Health Department at the end of the year, but there’s little planning underway to prepare for what could be a “chaotic” transition.

“We found little evidence of planning for this impending transition, however, which is now less than three months away. None of the people we interviewed could even tell us how the travel self-quarantine program will be funded after the end of the year.”

Under the pre-travel testing program, visitors will be allowed to forgo the mandatory quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before departure for the islands.

Hawaii leaders have acknowledged, however, that keeping tabs of passengers who don’t get tested and then neglect to quarantine will be next to impossible.

Auditors said the program suffers from a lack of oversight and a defined organizational structure managing every piece of the process ― from screening at airports to quarantine enforcement.

“The apparent delegation of authority to agencies to develop their own processes to support their responsibilities relating to the travel self-quarantine program has created inefficiencies,” the audit said.

To read the full audit, click here.

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