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Mayor wants to publicize visitors who opt out of COVID vaccinations, tests

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A traveler checks in Friday with TSA before heading to the terminal at Hilo International Airport.

Mayor Mitch Roth wants to create a public list of individuals who opt to forgo a COVID-19 test or vaccination before arriving on the island.

During a livestreamed interview Friday, Roth discussed additional measures the county could take to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus the Big Island. One of those potential measures, he said, includes possibly publishing the identities of travelers who choose to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival instead of offering proof that they have been vaccinated or tested negative.

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Currently, the Safe Travels Hawaii program requires travelers to display proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken 72 hours or less before the last leg of their trip to the state. If a traveler fails to do so, they must self-quarantine for 10 days.

“We’ve asked (Gov. David Ige), when people opt out of the Safe Travels program … we have people who have not been vaccinated, who refuse to test, that choose to be quarantined — one of the things we’re asking is, let’s let the media know who those people are who are choosing not to vaccinate, who are choosing not to test and are claiming to quarantine,” Roth said. “Because oftentimes, they don’t (quarantine). And it’s very difficult for people to know. So if the public is more aware we’re doing this, then it’s more likely that people aren’t going to make that choice. And if they do, we’re able to better enforce those rules and laws.”

Roth told the Tribune-Herald later Friday that he has proposed this list to Ige multiple times, most recently on Thursday, and the state attorney general’s office is exploring it as a possibility.

Roth compared the hypothetical list to the Tribune-Herald’s daily police arrest reports, saying that his list would perform a similar public service.

“We’re saying that you’ve chosen not to follow the rules that we’ve had in place,” Roth said. “You’ve chosen to take this alternative, to be in quarantine.”

By publishing names in the list, Roth suggested that people would be pressured to actually honor the terms of quarantine, or, better yet, go through with testing to avoid being put on the list at all.

Based on data already available to Roth, he said that close to 100 travelers to the Big Island chose to quarantine in August, the majority of whom were returning residents.

Roth said the list would not be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which limits how much of a patient’s medical records can be disclosed, because the list would not disclose medical information at all.

The list, he said, would solely be a list of who has opted out of testing, regardless of vaccination status or COVID-positivity.

“But we can say if they failed to provide proof of vaccination or proof of testing,” Roth told the Tribune-Herald.

Roth did not discuss how quickly the list could be created if approved.

He said he also has requested that Ige allow for reimplementing post-travel tests, saying Friday that Big Island hospitals are being stretched to their limits.

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“This puts everyone on the island in danger,” Roth said, adding that last year, when post-travel testing was mandatory on the island, the spread of COVID was significantly curbed.

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

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