Updated: Sep 16
On Wednesday, June 24, 2020, Governor David Ige announced a pre-travel testing plan as an alternative to the 14-day quarantine for arriving transpacific passengers. Beginning August 1, individuals who are tested and found to be Covid-19 negative within 72 hours of arrival will not have to quarantine.
Continuous trial and error have improved, but not perfected, the quarantine process since its implementation on March 26th. When it was found that people were still renting cars, a policy was established to prevent renting cars to quarantined individuals. When it was recognized that people were freely coming and going from their rooms, hotels adapted by providing a single use room key. Now, anyone trying to get back into their room has to notify hotel staff and reveal themselves as having left quarantine.
A cat and mouse game continues with tourists who claim to be staying with family and friends, but sneak off to a vacation rental, all of which have been banned from operating on Oahu. The Governor's latest emergency proclamation also subjects vacation rental owners and homeowners to $5000 fines when their guests violate quarantine.
Based on what has been learned over recent months, and due to the urgency of the pandemic response, two bills previously passed out of the House and now in the Senate will be completely changed. This process, known as gut and replace, is often controversial because it shortcuts normal vetting by both chambers. The bills will probably move quickly with limited debate and public input.
HB2502 will empower the director and the Department of Health (DOH) with specific powers in relation to detection, prevention, and control of communicable and dangerous diseases, and to amend current quarantine procedures to be more efficient and helpful. This bill is needed as a legal mechanism to empower DOH to screen incoming travelers.
A second new bill will help counties better regulate vacation rentals and the hosting platforms. HB460 will prohibit hosting platforms from completing a booking unless the vacation rental is listed on an approved county registry. It also gives the counties the ability to subpoena records from hosting platforms.
Probably the most significant and useful policy to manage coronavirus spread is the new screening form and arrival process at the airport. All arriving passengers must complete the form and show identification after disembarking the plane. Their ID and place of lodging are confirmed and their cellular phone is verified by calling before they leave the concourse. The name, arrival and accommodation details, and phone number will be invaluable for contact tracing and stopping the spread.
The pre-test and quarantine process, effective contact tracing, improved testing capability, social distancing and hygiene protocols, better treatments and ample health facilities, all together, should give us confidence as we move forward with reopening.