LIHU‘E — As a New York resident left Kaua‘i for O‘ahu earlier this month, he needed to sign two documents stating he understood the state’s 14-day mandatory self-quarantine, have his temperature checked and submit his permanent address, contact information and identification numbers.
That wasn’t the case when he arrived on the island 11 days prior.
The visitor, who agreed to share his story on the condition of anonymity, had to take four flights to his end destination of Lihu‘e Airport. During boardings, flights, layovers and deplanings, he says nobody in an official capacity told him about a 14-day, state-mandated quarantine instituted on March 26. And during his time here, nobody checked on him.
On April 7, this visitor flew on United Airlines into Maui from Denver as one of 160 visitors who flew into the state that day, according to Hawai‘i Tourism Authority numbers. Only 40 people flew into Maui, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
While on this flight, he filled out the Agriculture Declaration Form, checking off the visitor box. He had struggled with a back-and-forth on whether or not to come back to the island, but felt like the island was calling him.
When he landed at Kahului Airport, he was met by officials who gave him hand sanitizer and told him that his Agriculture Declaration Form should be handed in at his end destination of Lihu‘e. This struck him as odd, but he proceeded.
Before he could board the flight to Honolulu, paramedics checked his temperature. At 98.4 degrees, he was cleared, along with about 15 other passengers who sat staggered throughout the cabin.
On March 31, Gov. David Ige signed a proclamation requiring all residents and visitors traveling between the islands to self-quarantine for 14 days, effective starting April 1 through the end of the month to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the time of the signing of this proclamation, there were 230 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. As of April 23, there were 596 cases, according to the state Department of Health.
Part of the governor’s proclamation established an Interisland Declaration Form which includes name, address, telephone number and destination information, including the purpose of travel. Since he didn’t leave the airport, this New York traveler wouldn’t have gotten an Interisland Declaration Form.
After landing at Lihu‘e Airport, he expected officials there to accept his agriculture form, but that wasn’t the case.
“When I got off the plane in Lihu‘e, there were no airport personnel or health officials,” he said. “Nobody took my Agriculture Declaration Form.”
So, he sat down outside the airport and waited for his ride. He was staying with a friend who took him to Safeway before taking him to his designated quarantine residence.
The first rule of the state’s mandatory self-quarantine is to proceed directly from the airport to the designated quarantine location.
To this visitor’s understanding, and what he was told by his friend, there was a 14-day quarantine that could be broken for essential functions, like grocery shopping.
“Nobody in an official bureaucratic position told me about the quarantine, only island residents,” he said. “And even then it was vague.”
After more than a week on the island, leaving the house twice, he flew back to the Mainland for a medical procedure relating to a prior injury.
Enforcement on Kaua‘i
The Kaua‘i Police Department could not share how many check-ins they have done daily or share the number of people they are monitoring at this time, but travelers and visitors have confirmed they were checked on in-person.
“KPD follows up on all arrivals — residents and visitors — who must abide by the 14-day mandatory travel-related quarantine,” KPD Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce wrote in an email. “We don’t have exact figures, as the numbers fluctuate day by day.”
Over the last month, the KPD has completed random drive-thru roadblocks on the island and has established a routine checkpoint at the airport with the help of the Hawai‘i National Guard.
“KPD has consistently been doing mandatory 14-day travel-related quarantine checks,” Ponce wrote. “We aren’t able to disclose how often they are, but we can say that they are routine and are conducted as unannounced spot checks.”
There have been no citations issued from routine quarantine spot checks, however, a spokesperson said “there are a couple of cases that are currently under investigation.”
KPD has arrested five people for state-quarantine violations. Those convicted of violating this emergency rule could face fines of up to $5,000 and/or be sentenced to one year in jail.
Additionally, state DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office checks on individuals under quarantine who are close contacts of a confirmed case by calling twice a day, a spokesperson said. For a confirmed case, the DOH calls at least twice a day, more if needed.
How did this happen?
According to the Hawai‘i COVID-19 Joint Information Center, anyone arriving from out of state is supposed to complete a mandatory screening process and complete an Order for Self-Quarantine form, which is included in the Agriculture Declaration Form.
“Depending on the island, processing of these forms is handled by the Department of Transportation and/or the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority,” a press release said.
The HTA tracks out-of-state travelers daily. Whether a resident or visitor, these travelers can expect check-ins from a call center managed by the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau.
The HVCB is normally a marketing arm of the HTA, and has since shifted its duties to making calls.
“They have been making calls day and night — often late into the evening,” an HTA spokesperson said in an email.
This center has made over 10,000 calls to quarantined visitors statewide since the order went into effect. This does not include crew and transit individuals or those traveling interisland for medical reasons or to provide essential services. If call center workers cannot reach someone, local law enforcement is notified.
According to a spokesperson, most out-of-state flights are flying into Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
“If you don’t leave the airport and then go to LIH afterward you wouldn’t have to fill out an interisland declaration form,” the spokesperson explained.
Since the New York resident never handed that agriculture form in, which is required for all entering into Hawai‘i, and since he never left the Maui or Honolulu airports, an interisland declaration form was never given to him.
Other reports from more recent air travelers have said airline employees reminded travelers of quarantines.
Leaving the island
As the New York resident visitor left Kaua‘i last week, he said Lihu‘e had increased security measures.
“Before I could go through TSA, I had to sign a document about the 14-day quarantine and put up my mask,” he said. He was additionally handed two informative papers about COVID-19.
As he flew east, from Lihu‘e to Honolulu to San Francisco to Washington, D.C., he said the frequency of travelers wearing masks lessened.
“If masks were a physical indication of safety measures, (it was) much stricter farther west.”
On his flight into San Franciso from Honolulu, another passenger said the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority called to check up on him at the hotel and reiterated the self-quarantine meant they were not allowed to leave their room save for medical emergencies or to fly back home.
“I found this interesting because it differed greatly from my experience even though it’s the same state,” he said.
On April 24, the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation announced improved verification measures for airline travelers starting once they land in the state in addition to Agriculture Declaration Form.
Upon deplaning, travelers will have their temperatures checked and then sign a mandatory order for self-quarantining. Officials will then verify the information the traveler has provided, going as far as ringing the listed phone number for accuracy and then verifying home addresses for Hawai‘i residents or calling hotels for reservations.
“If a visitor is not staying at a hotel, the address they list will be checked on the county’s tax map key to verify it is a legitiate residence,” the press release said.
Travelers will not be allowed to leave without these confirmations.
Additionally, HDOT employees have been reassigned to follow up on residents during the quarantine.
This story has been edited to reflect updated information from HDOT.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.