Visitors find loopholes to break quarantine, residents frustrated

Coronavirus

For the second weekend in a row North Shore beaches were packed with people.

According to Governor Ige’s emergency proclamation, beaches are to be utilized for exercising purposes only.

“People can use the parks and beaches for exercise but gatherings are still prohibited,” he said in a news conference last week.

Many North Shore residents have been compliant with the rules and utilizing the beach to get to the ocean to surf or for exercise.

“It’s a free for all, but people who live out here seem to be the only ones not on the beach,” said Waimea Bay resident Karen Gallagher. “They’re respecting the laws and not going to the beach but they’re frustrated seeing everyone else on the beach.”

She said three of her neighbors received $5,000 fines for standing on the beach three weeks ago while their friend jumped in for a quick swim.

“Now people are all over the beach and the law still hasn’t changed. So, is it legal? Is it illegal? It is illegal but they’re randomly enforcing the laws,” she said.

“Since they opened the parks for “exercising” and that kind of thing it’s been like nothing ever changed, like there’s no threat, nothing ever happened,” said North Shore Neighborhood Board member Raquel Hill. “It’s back to old school traffic and people and chaos, and people are angry, it’s frustrating when you’re requiring people to do a stay at home order and comply with all these restrictions yet when you go to the grocery store for a simple task and you see groups of people.”

She said allowing visitors to enter the state from the beginning has created unnecessary tension.

“The visitors are coming in because they can,” she said. “So, people are going to do what they’re going to do. It’s the lack of enforcement and taking that action of saying ‘Listen, we’re cutting it off at the knees, nobody comes in period.”

“Being on an island you have an advantage or disadvantage you can contain or you can play with it and have it chase you for months,” she said.

She said she has seen many visitors out and about not following the mandatory 14-day quarantine.  

“It’s creating a hostility between locals and visitors even when you re-open and try and re-boot your economy you’re going to have a tough time because now there’s been a character that’s been created of hostility between locals and visitors, and you’re not going to easily erase that,” Hill added.

She said for the most part, many locals have complied with staying at home. “I’m not saying all locals are totally compliant, there are locals out there that are getting away with what they want to too. But it’s hard to try and watch us live here and survive here and comply and then you have visitors coming and they’re living their best lives out there.”

Gallagher lives on the same street as a vacation rental. She said her neighbor’s place has been busy for over a week.

“It was after 10 p.m., on a Wednesday night, and there were multiple cars there and a whole lot of people there so I called and made a complaint,” she said.

“The cops came but they just shut the music down which was good, but they didn’t address the other issues or other laws being broken; more than 10 people in a group, probably not quarantined, and staying in a vacation rental. All those things are supposed to be illegal yet nothing was addressed,” she said.

She said she’s frustrated because it puts the North Shore community at risk.

“I think we have really good ideas and laws, or “laws” that are out there but they’re not being enforced or they’re being enforced randomly and it’s confusing,” she said.

Senator Donovan Dela Cruz (D) Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, and chairman of the Senate Committee on COVID-19 said the visitors coming in are finding loopholes to break quarantine.

“Unfortunately, we’re getting a lot of visitors coming here on the cheap because flights to Hawaii are cheap,” Sen. Dela Cruz said. He also said he heard more visitors have been couch surfing too and using apps on their phones to find places to stay.

“They’re looking for other ways of accommodations and transportation so they can violate quarantine, whether they use various apps or different mechanisms online which are harder to track,” he added.

Last week, Governor Ige made it illegal for anyone to rent a vehicle while under the 14-day quarantine.

Hill said she has noticed tourists not driving around in rental cars.

“It’s not just rental cars, somehow they’re gaining access to other things maybe people are renting their personal cars out to them and in that aspect it’s just like the vacation rentals,” she said.

“Unfortunately, I think there is a lot of public frustration making sure the quarantine is adhered to and it’s a tight and secure process,” said Sen. Dela Cruz. “Until that occurs, I think a lot of people are uneasy about the increased number of visitors.”

“[Certain visitors] are ahead of us unfortunately, and looking for the loopholes and coming here with the intention to violate the quarantine and those aren’t the visitors we want here.”

Hill said she doesn’t want to chance going out because her mother is in the at-risk group, and her daughter works at a hospital and she doesn’t want to spread it to others.

“There is no room for relaxing. Once you open up these islands for business, you’re going to have people come in and you don’t know where they came from, you don’t know the situation from where they came from. It could be a great place and they were cleared and good or they could be coming from somewhere like New York, God bless them, and there are still very active threats going on in different areas of the country and they’re going to come here because we’re open,” she said.

“I have met a lot of really great visitors here in the past that genuinely appreciate it here, but the bottom line is the priority is the people of this state, the people of Hawaii period, and we need to get a better control on how this is handled and how to protect our people and our livelihoods,” she continued.

She said she admired how Mayor Derek Kawakami handled the COVID-19 situation on the island of Kauai with strict enforcement, curfews, and having the National Guard and law enforcement checking paperwork once travelers leave Lihue Airport. “He took that bull by the horns and said ‘no,’ and let me tell you, they’re in a good position today because of him.”

Sen. Dela Cruz said the committee will work with the Attorney General to “clean up language so we can get ahead of it and that way the attorney general can offer some language for the Governor’s next emergency proclamation.”

Once they go back into session on Monday, he said they will pass a bill that allocates funds to get thermal scanners at the airports.

“But enforcement is still an issue so in the coming weeks, the committee is going to be working with the attorney general and asking local law enforcement and local mayors to help us figure it out so we can close all the loopholes,” he said.

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