Gov. David Ige announced Thursday that a partial interisland travel quarantine will be implemented Tuesday through Aug. 31, citing a surge in Oahu cases, consensus among county mayors and need to relieve the burden on hospitals.
The mandatory 14-day self-quarantine only will impact travelers arriving in Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Kalawao counties and will not affect those flying to Oahu, according to a Thursday evening news release from the governor.
“This is the last thing that we wanted to do,” Ige said during a Thursday afternoon news conference on Oahu. “We have endured several months, all of us here all across the state, of restrictions and have been successful in managing the virus and keeping the counts low.
“But as we reopened our community, people let their guard down.”
While arrival on Oahu was exempt from the quarantine, Honolulu’s mayor detailed tighter measures for the state’s most populated county, which will close public parks, pools and campgrounds, among other restrictions.
Ige’s announcement comes on the heels of a request from Neighbor Island mayors to reinstate the quarantine due to Oahu’s surge of new COVID-19 cases in the triple-digits for nearly a week.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, who initially asked Ige to reinstate the quarantine more than two weeks ago, said Thursday that the rise in new case numbers brought mayors to agreement during more recent meetings.
“We appreciate the governor for following our request and making the difficult decision to reinstate the mandatory 14-day quarantine for interisland travelers,” Victorino said in a statement Thursday evening. “As cases continue to rise exponentially on Oahu, bold actions need to be taken to protect our communities on the Neighbor Islands.”
The initial COVID-19 interisland travel quarantine affecting all interisland travelers took effect April 1 and was lifted June 16.
Pamela Tumpap, Maui Chamber of Commerce president, said she was not surprised by the reinstated interisland travel quarantine. However, local businesses are more frustrated with the lack of information and ability to comment on significant actions and dates — such as the state Department of Education reopening and the Sept. 1 transpacific pretravel testing program launch.
“Businesses are still frustrated because the governor continues to say plans are being made on the DOE and September 1st reopening, but the public wants to hear more about those plans and have the opportunity to provide input,” she said Thursday.
Tumpap said that it’s important the community works together to stay safe, so leaders do not have to revert to stay-at-home orders.
“Every time we have to pull back causes greater economic and social hardships that make it more difficult to recover from,” she said.
During the news conference, state Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said COVID-19 is now “entrenched in the community.”
State health officials reported 152 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, with 148 of those on Oahu, three on Maui and one on Hawaii island. However, the new cases actually numbered around 200, Anderson said, due to an error in reporting from a medical record system malfunction.
He projected that Oahu hospitals will see their ICUs overrun by the end of the month if the case load continues on its current path. More than half, 53 percent, of ICU beds were filled, which will increase as more serious cases from new positive cases seek medical care.
About 10 percent of cases in Hawaii result in hospitalization, he said.
“Projection for Neighbor Islands are better, but their hospital capacity is much more fragile with less space and more limited capacity,” Anderson said.
Maui Memorial Medical Center reported no COVID-19 cases in the hospital Wednesday afternoon.
Anderson urged people to avoid crowded spaces, close face-to-face contact and enclosed places with poor ventilation.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced at the news conference the closure of all Oahu state and county parks and beaches, effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday through Sept. 5. Also, team sports will not be allowed in public parks through Sept. 5.
Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard said a new COVID-19 enforcement hotline will be launched at 10 a.m. Sunday, and officer enforcement will be bolstered.
At the news conference, Ige said he plans to announce within the next week plans for the pretravel testing program, which would allow transpacific travelers to bypass the current 14-day quarantine by producing a negative COVID-19 test.
The governor also said that he soon will address plans for public schools and universities to open. Hawaii public schools currently are scheduled to start the new school year Aug. 17, with some planning to offer remote instruction, some preparing to offer in-person classes and others setting up a hybrid of the two.
Two Oahu deaths related to COVID-19 were reported by state health officials Thursday, bringing Hawaii’s death toll to 29. Six of those deaths occurred on Maui.
An elderly female with underlying medical conditions had been a resident at a Pearl City nursing home but then was hospitalized and died.
An elderly man with underlying health issues was also hospitalized when he died, a state Department of Health news release said.
“The passing of this man really demonstrates how rapidly and invisibly COVID-19 is spreading through our communities, particularly on Oahu and particularly associated with clusters,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said in the news release. “A close contact of this individual attended a spin class at a gym taught by a person linked to the Hawaiian Airlines cluster.”
The state Health Department reported that at least 24 people contracted the virus at airline training sessions in Honolulu in late June.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at [email protected]
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