HONOLULU (KHON2) – The Safe Travels application is set to go into effect on Tuesday, Sept. 1, for folks coming into Hawaii, but it’s already received criticism.
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It’s meant to help officials keep track of visitors and residents who are supposed to be under the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine. The mandatory quarantine is in effect until at least Oct. 1, 2020.
The group who’s been leading the quarantine breaking effort calls the whole process a joke.
Earlier this month, Governor David Ige said the new app would be able to ping phones and check if individuals are following quarantine.
On Friday, the state’s chief information officer said that tracking is under legal review and isn’t sure if that will happen.
Frustrations have been mounting as the state continues to find ways to welcome back visitors safely.
“It’s a circus, nothing is getting done,” said Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers Administrator Angela Keen. “People are grasping at straws, citizens are taking matters into their own hands, you have a citizens group doing the work on the ground, getting paid zero, most of us are unemployed. Listen to us, ask us for advice we’ll tell you what works, and what doesn’t work, right now the system is broken.”
She said that the group has been working hard with the Attorney General’s Office to track down quarantine breakers.
She said the Senate Committee on COVID-19 and Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green have also been working hard to find solutions for re-opening to visitors, but she said that not being able to track people under quarantine via the $600,000 funded app defeats its purpose.
“Facebook tracks us, Twitter tracks us, any app you open up [on your phone] has a possibility to track you if you say yes, and if you say no, it doesn’t mean you want to be tracked which means you’re going to be a quarantine breaker. I mean, it’s as simple as that,” Keen said.
She said visitors continue to write that they are staying at vacation rentals on Oahu, which is currently prohibited, and rent cars illegally.
“Why are they allowed to leave the airport? The state is allowing them to break the law,” she said. “It’s so many different missteps and everyone needs to be on the same page, but it needs to come from the top down and that’s not happening.”
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, from Aug. 21 through Aug. 28, there have been 3,373 visitors to arrive in Hawaii, 1,183 people who put they are relocating or moving to Hawaii, and 4,904 residents have returned home. Not including Saturday’s numbers of arrivals, at least 10,000 people should be under quarantine this week alone.
Keen said the quarantine tips are coming into her group faster than ever.
“Nothing has changed, in fact it’s gotten worse. Local people are home now and they’re able to look out their window and see what’s going on, many of them in Waikiki near Airbnb’s in their neighborhood, I can’t get to my e-mails fast enough,” she said. “People are breaking quarantine even though we’re under lock down and it’s worse because local people are behind, in their homes looking out their window, it’s like being in a zoo,” she explained.
“It’s like being a zoo animal and we’re looking out the window and everybody’s coming here and free to do what they want to do, sneaking around in a Turo rental car and being in an Airbnb, enjoying all the things we can’t enjoy, so that’s why I said it’s like being in a zoo,” she continued.
She said that people are getting upset with the lack of enforcement on quarantine breakers, vacation rental violators and lack of leadership.
“If this quarantine following tracking system doesn’t get on point, we’re going to be the joke of the world because everyone wants to come here, and if it’s that easy to break quarantine then they think Hawaii doesn’t care,” Keen said.
“It is really a joke, and sorry to say, I’m going to get in trouble for saying this but it comes from the top, down if you don’t have leadership communicating with the agencies, communicating with the people, believing every little thing without searching it out, without being proactive, without putting your foot down, it ruins things,” she continued.
She said her group has about 6,000 people every day tracking down quarantine breakers and was disappointed when no one reached out to her group for advice on what needs to be done.
She said quarantine hotels, tracking visitors, submitting everything before they get on a plane, and a two-step system for testing including a test before getting on the plane and one after they’re here will help.
“All I can say is it’s like a circus with a bunch of clowns running around and nobody knows what they’re doing,” she explained.
“Our group is getting results because we’re working with the AG’s office and they’re very helpful but it’s just a big circus out there,” Keen said. “The powers that be with the decision making need to get into a meeting with the people who know what’s on the ground to help to make the changes immediately so we can open up and get back to work.”
State Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, who is the chair of the Committee on COVID-19, said communication from some leaders is lacking. He said that it’s not just the Safe Travels app that will lead to re-opening but also testing capacity at the airport, screening rooms, and enforcing the quarantine.
“There are a lot of moving parts and as long as we can communicate it and ensure there’s a plan to reopen then I think people would have a little more confidence in government,” he said. “And that plan hasn’t been articulated yet.”
“I know it’s extremely frustrating, the committee is also frustrated, but we have to do what we can so we can lend our support making sure we can make the improvements we need to control this situation,” Sen. Dela Cruz added.
“There’s two apps that I think are going to be important for us to contain the virus; one is the Safe Travels app and the other is the Safe Pact app and that’s going to be where people can use that app and do their own contact tracing with the assistance of the Department of Health. The app will make sure it keeps a record of where they’ve been at which is really important and despite having the technology you also need enforcement,” he said. “So government needs to make sure they hire the staff necessary to help the police department to help the attorney general, obviously a text that someone gets just because they got off a plane, that doesn’t mean they’re going to follow the quarantine so we have to be a lot more diligent put a lot more resources so we can open safely and like I said regain the public’s confidence,” he said.
The Senate Committee on COVID-19 will address the app and more next week at their next hearing.
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