Inter-island quarantine reinstated for neighbor island travel after Oahu cases spike

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Thursday, Gov. David Ige said the 14-day interisland quarantine will be reinstated for all inter-island travelers.

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The governor said that he and all the county mayors agreed that additional measures are necessary to make sure that cases do not spread, uncontrolled, across the entire state.

“I know many of you will be disappointed to hear this news. Interisland travel is an important way for families and friends to stay in touch. I wish this was not necessary, but your health and safety must always come first,” Ige said. He encouraged anyone traveling interisland to check airport websites for updates. 

Health officials said the reason is due to the large spike in cases on Oahu and the concern of having limited health care capacity on the neighbor islands.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino had been pushing for the inter-island quarantine to be reinstated since mid-July.

In a press conference on Wednesday, he said he was especially concerned with people traveling to and from Honolulu after two Oahu contractors traveled to Lanai, the only island to not report a single COVID-19 case, and tested positive for the virus after they returned home to Honolulu.

“We’re afraid this will seriously tax our healthcare system statewide and our beds whether its ICU beds or ventilators,” Mayor Victorino said. “Studies we received show we could be at capacity at the end of this month.”

A similar incident happened on Hawaii island, after one of the island’s fire fighter battalion chief’s tested positive for COVID after a trip to Oahu.

“We’ve had more than one case of people from this island going to Oahu and coming back positive for the coronavirus,” said Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim. “This is obviously a big concern for everyone.”

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said Garden Isle residents need to remain vigilant, as the island has very limited healthcare resources.

“We’re all connected as a state because we all have this tie to one another so when one island hurts, we all hurt and it’s to no fault to Oahu that they’re going through this, but I have to say that government in this type of situation can only provide the guidance and set the compass and get this ship sailing in the right direction,” Kawakami said.

“We need the people to meet us half way,” he continued.

“We’re not immune to what’s happening on Oahu, if we continue to be lax and not make the sacrifices that are needed, we would probably have to take bigger, more drastic measures quicker because our healthcare system doesn’t have the capacity,” Kawakami said.

Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green is an ER Doctor at a Hawaii island hospital on the weekends and knows first-hand how limited the capacity is for neighbor islands.

He said as of Thursday, 53% o the state’s ICU beds are in use.

He said none of the neighbor island ICU beds are currently being used for COVID-19 patients, but the lack of beds is a concern.  He said Maui has 29 ICU beds, Hawaii island has 24, and Kauai has nine.

“We could overwhelm Big Island, Maui, or Kauai really fast,” he said. “So, I think there’s some wisdom in having extra safety measures like travel restrictions between the islands.”

Green said this is a good window for all islands to adjust and help bring case numbers back down.

Gov. Ige said essential workers are exempt from the inter-island quarantine, but said workers will be under quarantine when they are not conducting their essential business. He said more details will be discussed in the coming days.

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