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A plane flies into Lihue airport on Kauai. GETTY
If you’re looking at the reduced air fares and hotel rates and thinking about jetsetting off to Hawaii for a little pandemic vacation while you have the time, think again.
Hawaii has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving visitors, and though it is technically being done on the honor system - aka, it’s up to the individual to be responsible - there is a push to enforce the rules of the lockdown and punish those who violate it.
What does that mean? Here’s the latest about what’s happening in Hawaii:
The State is Tracking Everyone Who Arrives
Or at least, they’re trying to.
Today In: Travel
“Hawaii state law requires that all passengers arriving in Hawaii complete an agricultural declaration form,” the Star Advertiser reported this weekend. “The main purpose of the form is to prevent foreign plants, animals and pests from entering Hawaii. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the form also has another purpose, which is to identify where quarantining passengers are staying.”
The form asks for the person’s basic information as well as for a Hawaii address or hotel. At a hearing on Friday, HTA Chief Administrative Officer Keith Regan said that its personnel will begin testing passenger cellphones at the airport to ensure that the numbers are valid and correct. He said they will also confirm the addresses on the form by searching tax records to ensure they are real and not affiliated with a vacation rental or bed-and-breakfast home.
Sounds good in theory, but how this plays out at the airport will be another story. Despite the agricultural form being mandatory for all arriving passengers, there is no official checkpoint for those coming from the mainland. Typically, the forms are simply collected by the flight attendants and never seen again, and no information is verified.
So if Hawaii authorities do plan on taking things more seriously, they will have to set up a temporary checkpoint that allows them to confirm each passenger’s identity and details.
Staying at a Vacation Rental is Illegal
Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Chris Tatum reminded people recently that staying at vacation rentals is illegal at the moment and not allowed during the COVID-19 lockdown. Hotels are open, but vacation rentals (AirBnb, VRBO, bed-and-breakfasts) have all been ruled as nonessential business.
Hawaii Tourism Representatives Will Call You - And You Must Answer
Assuming you give your correct cell number and assuming they confirm it is correct, representatives from Hawaii tourism will call you to make sure you are abiding by all lockdown rules, including the 14-day self quarantine.
Three strikes and you’re out: If you don’t answer any of the three calls, which are presumably spread out over the course of a few days, they will turn your information over to local law enforcement agents, who can then check up on you.
The Star Advertiser reported that, since the quarantine began on March 26, tourism authorities have made about 7,600 calls to visitors, plus emails.
“It is a self-quarantine, which is really kind of an honor system for the most part,” Tatum said. “Most people are doing the right thing, but I’m sure there are some people that just don’t want to follow the rules. If we find them, we’ll report them and address that.”
Hotels Are Keeping Track of You
Tatum said they are also working closely with hotels to keep track of guests. They can call ahead to the hotel to notify that someone is on their way from the airport, and then follow up later to ensure they have checked in and are quarantining.
He said that hotels have the authority to keep track of the comings and goings of its guests and can call the police or tourism representatives in the event of a quarantine violation. How the process would work for the quarantine exceptions - someone going out to exercise, or to buy food - seems to be up to the discretion of the hotel staff at this time.
Though some are confused as to why hotels are allowed to remain open (if they choose) while vacation rentals have been deemed nonessential, Tatum said that hotels help the tourism authority keep track of guests, while vacation rentals don’t offer the same kind of access or support.
“[There’s] no hard line to call or someone to check the room,” Tatum said of vacation rentals.
The Reckless Are Being Sent Home
Though these enforcement scenarios present many “in theory” qualifiers - that is, the process seems dependent on a lot of moving parts - there is proof that Hawaii will send you home if it catches you fooling around.
Recently, a woman was arrested and sent back to Los Angeles after authorities discovered from her social media accounts that she was violating quarantine. She apparently used a business address on the agricultural form upon arrival, which was never verified.