Hawaii Governor David Ige on Sunday announced that coronavirus-related Hawaii travel restrictions and mandatory 14-day quarantines will be extended through the month of May.
When announced, those restrictions were meant to expire on April 31. Despite Hawaii has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the United States, concern remains high about community spread of the virus, and particularly about the possibility of visitor arrivals in Hawaii increasing the risk of the spread of deadly COVID-19.
The extension of restrictions means that anyone arriving in Hawaii by air travel will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine in their place of lodging. This policy also affects returning residents and interisland air travel. All new arrivals are required to provide proof of lodging or face arrest and possible mandatory relocation to their place of origin.
Enforcement of these restrictions has stepped up significantly, with many dozens of arrests made in recent weeks of residents and visitors alike who have chosen to flout the new rules. In some cases, visitors who arrived in Hawaii without proof of lodging were sent back to their places of origin. Their return travel was subsidized by the Hawaii Visitor Aloha Society through a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
These restrictions have been catastrophic for Hawaii’s economy. Tourism is far and away from the largest non-military sector of Hawaii’s economy. Hotel closures and the shuttering of local restaurants, bars, and retail establishments have seen Hawaii’s unemployment numbers skyrocket.
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Even as Hawaii continues to find success in mitigating the spread of coronavirus, the Aloha State has been hit with a staggering number of unemployment insurance claims. More than 250,000 individuals have filed for claims since mid-March, an almost unthinkably massive number considering Hawaii’s population of just 1.4 million.
Governor Ige has said that no other state in the U.S. has been more effective at stopping the spread of the coronavirus than Hawaii has been. The number of new cases is trending downward, with the current count of confirmed cases at 606 as of Monday, April 27. The number of COVID-19 related deaths remains at 14.
As they have throughout the country, county, state and federal responses to the coronavirus have polarized residents of Hawaii. The business community, from massive resort properties to local restaurants and retailers, are eager for the economy to reopen. At the same time, some communities have been outspoken and eager to stomp the brakes on Hawaii accepting new arrivals.
Stories of visitors ignoring quarantine and travel restrictions have engendered some resentment among many Hawaii residents toward visitors who choose to come to Hawaii during such a perilous time for the state and its people. Visitors ignoring Hawaii’s restrictions and quarantine requirements have led some residents and businesses to report people they suspect may be flouting the rules.
What is undeniable, however, is that simply “turning off tourism” in Hawaii would be devastating to an economy already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus global pandemic. Industry leaders and elected officials are desperately trying to find a way to reopen the economy without seeing a second wave of the virus spread throughout the islands.
The mayors of Hawaii’s four counties have had different approaches to dealing with the pandemic, with Kauai having the most stringent restrictions, including a night-time curfew, roadblocks, and routine traffic stops. Other proposals that have been floated in Hawaii include fitting visitors with electronic tracking devices to monitor their location during the mandatory quarantine. Gov Ige announced Sunday that all new measures Hawaii’s counties implement regarding coronavirus must be cleared through his office first.
The situation in Hawaii remains fluid and the future uncertain. However, we can be certain that efforts to mitigate the spread of coronavirus have been relatively successful due to the commitment of residents to adhere to restrictions meant to slow the spread.
For most people planning a Hawaii vacation, the fact is that right now Hawaii is essentially closed for business. That will change, certainly, but when and how that will happen remains to be seen.
Hawaii Aloha Travel is here to answer your questions about the coronavirus in Hawaii (to the extent that we are able to do so with accurate facts and data). And we will be here to help you plan your Hawaii vacation when the Aloha State is once again open for business. Please follow new developments on our Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast.