State looking for more ways to stop visitors from coming

Coronavirus

Six-hundred-ninety-one people arrived in the state yesterday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 164 were visitors. Hawaii’s incident commander raised concerns about daily arrivals. Now lawmakers are looking at charging visitors a quarantine fee.

The Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 brought it up with state attorney general Clare Connors, saying we need to do more to discourage visitors from coming here and using our resources.

Connors says it’s a tricky proposition because the airports are regulated by and receive millions of dollars from the Federal Aviation Administration. But it’s something worth looking into.

“I do understand the policy behind it, one more thing we could utilize to discourage people from coming. And if they do come, from having to share a cost of the burden of what we have to undertake to handle the fact that they’ve arrived,” said Connors.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, of the 164 visitors who arrived on Monday, most of them, 153, landed on Oahu. It’s a problem that incident commander Gen. Kenneth Hara raised to lawmakers and added he’s working on a plan to discourage visitors.

“What we’re looking at possibly, is restricting their availability with reservations with lodging. So that’s something that’s in the works, I’m working with the attorney general on that,” said Hara.

The attorney general says she’s also looking at better ways to track those under quarantine. The state recently launched a website for visitors to register and check in daily. Other countries like Taiwan and South Korea have had success using phone apps and GPS ankle bracelets that automatically notify officials if someone has left a designated area.

“I do have a team that is looking at, in particular, the South Korea system of monitoring, looking at the legality issues that surround that and then also we’re looking at the capacity issues and the efficacy issues,” said Connors.

Officials point out that technology and additional monitoring will also be necessary after the pandemic has subsided. Once it’s safe to allow tourism to the islands, it will likely be necessary to give antibody tests, which will show visitors are immune and can’t spread the virus.

“We’re looking very carefully with our team at Department of Health and a lot of other public safety officials to find out, can we do testing to show that people have antibodies and therefore are immune?” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

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