Welcoming visitors back to Hawaii is “weeks if not months in the future”

Hawaii officials continue their cautious approach to reopen the state. Unfortunately, for visitors, that means that the possibility of a Hawaii vacation in the near future is unlikely to happen.

Quarantine Extended

Yesterday, May 18, 2020, Governor Ige officially extended the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors and residents traveling to Hawaii through June 30, 2020. The inter-island travel quarantine, also 14-days, has been extended as well.

Facebook Live COVID 19 Care Conversation

The governor participated in Facebook Live hosted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser yesterday. I wanted to share some relevant points for potential visitors that were made:

In response to a question regarding when they might see more hotels opening with the potential for inter-island residents traveling about the state, the governor said,

“So my guess is that they wouldn’t be reopening hotels even as we allow inter-island travel. They are waiting for when we would welcome visitors from the mainland as well as international and that’s weeks if not months in the future.”

I asked a question which, thankfully, was selected to ask to the governor. My question was: what advice would you give to visitors who have vacations booked in July, August and so on? When the question was presented, the journalist added more to the question by also asking if it’s financially safe for travelers to make those bookings for later in the summer. So, the governor’s response didn’t directly answering my original question. His response was,

“Certainly I think that they can be looking at that. Although, I think it’s premature. I would just make sure they are not going to be charged with a change or cancellation fee…We’ve encouraged the airlines to drop those kinds of fees during this period of time. Definitely domestic and international travel is one of the last things that would be brought back.”

You can watch the entire conversation in the following video:

Governor Ige’s May 18, 2020 News Conference: COVID-19

Yesterday, the governor presented a strategy to reopen Hawaii’s economy in a news conference. You can access his presentation slides here and watch the entire conference on the following video:

As you know, my forte is providing practical information for Hawaii visitors, so I watched this conference intently listening for any information that can help visitors know when a quarantine-free vacation might be possible. Unfortunately, there weren’t any concrete answers, but we did make note of some of the more important points as they relate to travelers.

When the governor was asked why not be more aggressive in reopening considering Hawaii has a very low infection rate, the governor’s response was,

“We believe in consultation with the heath experts and the county mayors that we wanted to take a measured and reasoned approach. We want to slowly increase activity and monitor the number of COVID positive cases. You know, we have limit health care resources here in the islands and unlike any other states, we can’t drive to the next county or drive to the next state to get access to hospital care or intensive care units.”

When asked about dropping the quarantine, the governor’s response was, that the state wants a system of screens that would allow them to identify and separate those who may be sick from those who are are healthy. A “system for screening” was mentioned several times, particularly when the governor was answering questions from the press. This eventual system is still very much in the conceptual phase.

The governor was asked about a $36 million appropriation that the legislature is passing for temperature screening cameras in Hawaii airports and if that might be part of the process to avoid quarantine requirements. As part of the governor’s response, he said, “Screening and some process of screening will be a part of opening our economy to travelers from around the country and around the world.”

So, there you have it. Unfortunately, everything is still as clear as mud as far as when visitors can return without a quarantine requirement. The only thing we do know for certain is that a mandatory 14-day quarantine will be required for incoming travelers and residents through the end of June. Could it be extended even further? We wouldn’t rule out that possibility.

As a reminder, here’s the governor’s outline of the 14-day quarantine order. The emphasis is mine:

Proceed directly from the airport to your designated quarantine location, which is the location identified and affirmed by you on the mandatory State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Plants and Animals Declaration Form.

Remain in your designated quarantine location for a period of 14 days or the duration of your stay in the State of Hawai‘i, whichever is shorter.

    • If you are a resident, your designated quarantine location is your place of residence.
    • If you are a visitor, your designated quarantine location is your hotel room or rented lodging.
    • You can only leave your designated quarantine location for medical emergencies or to seek medical care.

Do not visit any public spaces, including but not limited to pools, meeting rooms, fitness centers or restaurants.

Do not allow visitors in or out of your designated quarantine location other than a physician, healthcare provider, or individual authorized to enter the designated quarantine location by the Director of HIEMA.

Comply with any and all rules or protocols related to your quarantine as set forth by your hotel or rented lodging.

If you become ill with a fever or cough:

    • Continue to stay in designated quarantine location, avoid contact with others and contact a healthcare provider for further instructions on treatment or testing.
    • If you are older or have any medical conditions (e.g., immune compromise, diabetes, asthma), consult your regular healthcare provider.
    • If you feel you need medical care, contact healthcare provider and inform them of your travel history.
    • If you need urgent medical care (e.g., have difficulty breathing), call 9-1-1 and let the dispatcher know your travel history).

Failure to follow this order is a misdemeanor and punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.  Enforcement will be handled by each of Hawaiʻi’s four counties.

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