State begins enforcing 14-day shelter-in-place order for arriving travelers

  • Courtesy photo U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Kathryn P. Sanborn speaks at a news conference Thursday.

  • Courtesy photo State Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara speaks at a news conference Thursday.

  • Courtesy photo Lt. Gov. Josh Green speaks at a news conference Thursday.

  • Courtesy photo Gov. David Ige speaks at a news conference Thursday.

  • Courtesy photo State Health Director Bruce Anderson speaks at a news conference Thursday.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A line is formed outside of Home Depot in Hilo on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Although the store has stayed open as an essential business, management has tried to control the amount of people allowed inside at one time.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A fisherman reels in a line at Keaukaha Beach Park in Hilo on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Hilo has closed the beach parks to help alleviate the spread of COVID-19.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Alex Spivak, left, and Walter Grenell talk with a lifeguard before entering the water at Honoli’i Beach Park in Hilo on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Although the park is closed, surfers can go out to the water as long as they don’t stay on the beach.

The state’s new policy of quarantining air travelers for two weeks already has reduced visitation rates to a trickle.

Zero planes landed at Hilo International Airport on Thursday, the day Gov. David Ige’s 14-day quarantine mandate took effect, and only 10 arrived at Kona International Airport, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara.

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Statewide, arrivals this week dropped by 87% compared to last year, Sakahara said.

Now that the quarantine is being enforced, Sakahara said he anticipates visitation rates will drop even further.

“This has never been done in the state of Hawaii, and it’s also never been done by any state in the country,” Sakahara said. “With that being said, the process is going very well.”

Upon arrival, all visitors will deliver their agriculture declaration form — which all passengers are required to fill out on the plane, even during normal circumstances — to representatives along with their IDs. After confirming their identities, the representatives will present the arrivals with the terms of their mandatory quarantine.

Residents will be quarantined in their homes and visitors must stay in their hotels at their own expense, but both are required to shelter in place for 14 days, leaving only for medical appointments or emergencies. Leaving for food or groceries is not permitted.

Sakahara said the state Department of Health will contact hotels to ensure that quarantined guests remain sequestered.

“They are not allowed to leave their rooms — whether it’s in the hotel or at home — for any reason,” Ige said during a news conference Thursday. “If they violate that quarantine, they are subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or one year in prison or both.”

Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state increased to 106 Thursday after 11 more cases were identified.

Eight of the new cases were found on Oahu, one on Maui and two were residents traveling on the cruise ship Grand Princess, which is currently docked at Oakland after dozens of passengers were found to test positive for the coronavirus earlier this month.

There are five confirmed cases on the Big Island.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said the majority of the state’s cases involve people with recent travel history; however, three cases were found in people with no recent travel history, indicating that the virus is spreading through community transmission primarily on Oahu, which has the vast majority of confirmed cases.

The DOH remains committed to securing sufficient medical equipment and facilities to manage the pandemic, Anderson said.

Currently, there are 1,500 hospital beds available in the state if necessary, while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assessing buildings on each island to possibly convert them into alternative care facilities, if necessary.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Kathryn P. Sanborn said the Corps assessed two buildings on Oahu — the exhibition hall at the Hawaii Convention Center and the Neal S. Blaisdell Center — and will conduct assessments at sites on Maui today.

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Lt. Gov. Josh Green said there are 4,000 practicing doctors and 9,000 physicians licensed to practice in the state who could be tapped to staff these new facilities, if necessary.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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