Mayor Harry Kim said Thursday that he will not support a plan by Gov. David Ige to loosen out-of-state travel restrictions on Aug. 1 without significant improvements.
Kim and the mayors of the state’s other counties met virtually with Ige on Wednesday to discuss plans to allow travelers from out of state to visit without requiring a 14-day quarantine upon arrival if they have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. That meeting, Kim said, lasted five hours before continuing Thursday, and it left him and the other mayors dissatisfied.
“I told him, until certain things are resolved, I cannot support this plan as it’s been presented,” Kim said.
Kim said the mayors of Honolulu, Maui and Kauai are in agreement. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a statement Thursday echoing Kim’s comments, opining that it is not yet safe to allow travelers to bypass the quarantine requirement.
Kim specified that the plan needs a more comprehensive and responsive quarantine-monitoring system, among other things, before he can support it. A real-time tracking system to monitor quarantining travelers and ensure they are not flouting quarantine will be essential when the number of arriving flights balloons exponentially in August, he said.
“What is being presented is not an acceptable risk,” Kim said.
The mayor also said travelers would ideally present their negative COVID-19 tests before entering the plane to Hawaii, rather than upon arrival in Hawaii, as Ige’s plan currently states.
While the number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii is the lowest among all 50 states, Kim pointed out that the primary departure point for all domestic flights to Hawaii is California, which has had the second-highest number of cases in the nation after New York.
With states such as California and Arizona recording tens of thousands of new cases each week, allowing thousands of travelers from those states into Hawaii, which has only had 1,130 cases in five months, would present an intolerable health risk, Kim said.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supported Kim and the other mayors Thursday, issuing a statement urging them and Ige to extend the mandatory quarantine policy for an indefinite period.
“…We are facing an extreme shortage in testing reagents, personal protective equipment and medical supplies,” said Gabbard’s statement. “We must put the health and lives of the people of Hawaii first and take necessary actions to contain and defeat this virus in our state. The travel quarantine must remain in place for the time being as we focus on containing and defeating the virus, massively increasing our testing and tracing capacity and securing our medical supply chains. These steps are essential to get to a place where the people of Hawaii can be confident that travelers coming to our state will not bring greater risk and COVID-19 infections with them.”
Hawaii County Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder of Puna also urged Ige to extend the quarantine policy, calling the plan to test visitors 72 hours before arrival “inadequate.”
“We must remain proactive; the virus does not move unless we move,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder’s statement said. “It is imperative that we all continue to follow proper social distancing measures for the safety of our community.”
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