Nearly 200 people have been arrested for violating Hawaii's 14-day mandatory quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic since the state implemented the rule in late March.
According to a release issued Friday by the state's Hawaii Covid-19 Joint Information Center, a total of 182 people have been arrested by state or county law enforcement on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island. (The figure includes arrests on Oahu made by the attorney general’s office, but the Honolulu Police Department groups statistics on quarantine violations together with violations on all emergency orders.)
“It’s a monumental effort to keep track of everyone who should be in quarantine and it involves a hui of law enforcement agencies, representatives of Hawaii’s visitor industry, state transportation workers, and the community generally,” the release said.
On Thursday, Gov. David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors and Paul Jones, deputy chief for the Department of the Attorney General Investigations Divisions, answered questions from the community via Facebook Live regarding the enforcement and efficacy of the quarantine rule.
“I do believe that the quarantine has been a significant part of our success here in Hawaii,” Ige said in the video update.
The officials explained that the state checks in with individuals who are supposed to be quarantining through Hawaii Tourism Authority and the state Department of Transportation, both of which have set up call centers for this purpose. Those in quarantine also have the option to interact with state officials through an app to provide updates on how they are feeling.
In addition, the state conducts face-to-face compliance checks to ensure that both travelers and residents who have recently returned from a trip are at their designated quarantine location. Jones said that his team has conducted more than 350 compliance checks since June 10. He said that when they have made the face-to-face check-ins, “people have, for the most part, been at their quarantine location.”
Officials are currently tracking about 7,145 individuals.
Connors said that 80-90 people have also been turned away at the airport upon arrival.
If an individual is suspected of violating the quarantine, Connors explained that it turns into an investigation where officers must gather evidence before making an arrest. Investigations involve surveillance, interviewing witnesses and gathering video footage.
Officials said that they often rely on witnesses, including neighbors or hotel workers, to report violations, but reminded people that they should contact law enforcement to report an incident — and not try to handle the situation on their own.
Connors said that they are considering apps and other technology to monitor travelers, which could also help in contact tracing.
Earlier this week, Ige announced that the state would extend the 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers through Sept. 1. On Friday, he formalized the decision by signing a new emergency proclamation.
Under the quarantine, visitor arrivals to Hawaii have dropped dramatically. According to HTA data, arrivals dropped by nearly 100% year-over-year during both April and May.
However, hundreds of visitors do still arrive every day. HTA reported that a total 2,616 passengers arrived in Hawaii on Thursday, including 737 visitors.
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Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.