Senators uncover a loophole in airport screening process

Coronavirus

HONOLULU(KHON2)–The 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers started April 1st. However, concerns continue to mount over how the state is tracking visitors. Friday, lawmakers visited Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to see the process first hand.

A number of arrests and stories about visitors gallivanting around town unchecked, while residents abide by the stay-at-home order, is fueling frustrations according to Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 Chair Donovan Dela Cruz.

With Hawaii gradually reopening, more tourists will come. If we’re not prepared now, how will it work when the numbers increase?

“Right now law enforcement is catching quite a bit of them, especially with the public through social media. But when we start to get 5,000 visitors and slowly creep our way to get back to the 30,000 visitors we used to have, how are we going to ensure this system is safe and secure for our residents? How is it going to be successful?”

Dela Cruz said they were shown the whole screening process as several flights came in Friday afternoon.

“They walked us through what happens when a passenger leaves the plane — they get a temperature check and and their addresses verified, and phone numbers verified. And they also make sure everybody signs the forms that are required.”

But Dela Cruz said visitors have found a loophole.

“They have the hotel reservation, but their reservation is only for one night. And then they’re saying that ‘We’re only gonna stay for one day and we’re gonna get on the flight tomorrow.’ We know that they’re actually violating the self-quarantine, but because they met the minimum qualification of having a reservation they get through the process,” Dela Cruz said.

Requiring visitors to sign the Hawaii Tourism Authority form would help resolve this problem. Dela Cruz said he wants to implement that immediately

“Even though the agriculture form is mandatory, the HTA form is not. That indicates how many nights you are going to stay during your visit. That at least gives us the indication if you’re going to break the quarantine or not.”

“And they’re not calling the hotel–they’re calling the person’s cellphone,” Senator Kurt Fevella explained.

“(The screeners) see the reservation– the confirmation paper– and they let em go.”

Fevella said he wants screeners to call the hotel directly to confirm the reservation.

Senator Donna Mercado Kim said she noticed that people don’t seem to be actually reading the legal form acknowledging that they understand there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

“There’s nobody actually verbalizing it to them. And they just sign and not even reading what they’re signing. So we ask that the personnel verbally–like when you get in an airline and sit in an exit row when they say you have to verbally say yes,” Kim said.

In addition, Kim is suggesting airport personnel make announcements about the 14-day quarantine over the PA system.

Dela Cruz said they also need to deal with homeless visitors–they saw several homeless people arrive on the flights.

“Talking to law enforcement, they said this happens daily.”

The committee is looking at options for a quarantine site for homeless to be sent to.

“Don’t get me wrong, these guys at the airport are doing a great job. We got to see the process that’s got to be fixed and make improvements,” Fevella said.

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