HONOLULU — The 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific travel to Hawai‘i will likely continue through at least the beginning of October, according to a Tuesday announcement from Governor David Ige.
Ige addressed the public and the press in a media conference alongside O‘ahu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and state health director Bruce Anderson, announcing both the planned delay of lifting traveler quarantines and the return of emergency rules for O‘ahu effective at midnight Aug. 19.
Ige also said he’s also planning to extend the eviction moratorium in Hawai‘i, which is currently set to expire on Aug. 31, in a coming supplemental proclamation, but did not give further details.
“We had planned to begin the pre-travel testing program on Sept 1; we are delaying the start of the pre-travel testing, it will not begin until Oct. 1 at the earliest,” Ige said in the conference, explaining state officials will continue monitoring conditions and plan to announce changes in regulations early enough to give the hospitality industry time to adjust.
The purpose of the pre-travel testing program is to allow trans-Pacific travelers to land in Hawai‘i without quarantining.
The new rules for O‘ahu are under emergency order entitled “Act Now Honolulu,” which further limits social gatherings, heavily encourages working from home and lays down facemask and other pandemic-related rules for shopping malls, restaurants and spiritual services. Those new rules will be in place for 28 days and are only for the island of O‘ahu.
Representatives from the Office of Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami said they do not anticipate any new rules for Kaua‘i at this time, but did not provide further comment.
Also Tuesday, the Department of Health announced 134 new COVID-19 infections statewide, with zero new infections on Kaua‘i, and officials said that number is a sign of shifting tides in fighting the pandemic.
Caldwell said the number of positive cases has changed from doubling every six days to now doubling every 10 days, and Anderson confirmed that sentiment, explaining “while the number of cases is concerning, we are seeing a plateauing of the numbers, they’re not rising as it did last week when we were seeing an exponential rise.”
But, officials said that’s not a reason to decrease efforts in combating the virus.
“We’ve asked for and you have delivered progress and for that we are grateful, but we do have to dig deeper,” Caldwell said.
Currently the 14-day quarantine applies to all trans-Pacific travelers who land in Hawai‘i. There is also a 14-day quarantine rule in effect for anyone landing on the neighbor islands of Kaua‘i, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island. Ige said Tuesday lifting the later is complicated, explaining it becomes an “implementation issue” and a question of “how to identify those that are traveling from one neighbor island to another.”
“We’d have to look at what systems we’d have to put in place to identify a resident from Kauai, for example, who flies to Maui. It’d be a challenge to recognize where they’re coming from,” Ige said.
Schools and COVID-19
State officials Tuesday also addressed the welcoming of students back to public schools, saying they still don’t have specific benchmarks established for when a school should close due to COVID-19 infection, but that DOH is working with the Department of Education to support students and teachers as the 2020-21 school year begins.
“There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that when classroom teaching begins again that we have good guidance available, Anderson said. “We’re throwing together an ad-hoc committee to form a plan.”
He said currently officials are looking at Centers for Disease Control protocols for guidance.
And while the new O‘ahu rules will require businesses to make adjustments so employees can work from home, Ige said some teachers will have to be physically on some campuses throughout the DOE complexes because some students require in-person lessons and programs.
“We certainly will be looking at what the needs in each individual situation would be and be taking them up on a case by case basis,” Ige said. “The public school system is an essential service and we’ve been coordinating activities on each island.”
In response to the Tuesday conference, Hawai‘i State Teachers Association president Corey Rosenlee said HSTA still maintains that in order to reduce transmission, teachers should be allowed to work from home and no students should be coming on campus.
“The governor’s decision today to call for 28 days of restrictions on O‘ahu leaves very important decisions unresolved,” Rosenlee said. “There are still no metrics from the Department of Health and Department of Education on the requirements for safely reopening schools or when they should close. We are also concerned with the governor’s exceptions to our public school system.”