HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki plans to introduce legislation to establish statewide COVID-19 travel rules to reduce confusion for residents and tourists.
The Democratic speaker said he also likely would introduce legislation to lower the penalty for not wearing a mask in public to a citation or violation, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.
The violation is now a misdemeanor carrying a possible maximum penalty of $5,000 and a year in jail.
“The misdemeanor offense is too harsh for the mask mandate,” Saiki said. “Convert it to something like a ticket or a violation.”
Saiki said he expects opposition from individual counties on making uniform, statewide travel rules.
A bill calling for a uniform travel policy “would not allow for the kinds of exemptions that we are currently seeing, such as on Kauai,” Saiki said. “The statewide travel policy should be consistent and apply to all counties to avoid confusion and to help prop up our entire statewide economy.”
The reasons Saiki listed for the need to set statewide rules include avoiding confusion, a lack of data showing travel is a predominant cause of the coronavirus in Hawaii and the role travel plays in the state’s economy.
“Every county needs to be a part of that,” he said.
Saiki is also likely to introduce legislation allowing inbound passengers to take a COVID-19 test at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu if they do not have a negative test before landing. Passengers testing negative would not be subject to quarantine, he said.
Passengers without negative test results currently must submit to a 10-day quarantine.
“They would take a test at the airport, and they would have to be quarantined until they receive that result,” Saiki said. “The wait time (should be) three or four hours.”
A statewide tier system, like the one in place on Oahu where 80% of the state’s residents live, would not be appropriate for other neighbor islands, he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can lead to serious health problems.