HONOLULU (KHON2) — Any passengers coming to Hawaii from the Hubei province in China will be put in mandatory quarantine for two weeks according to Lt. Governor Josh Green. This coming after concerns and questions arose after the federal government announced that Hawaii would be one of seven locations used to funnel direct flights from China into the U.S.
One of the main things Green said is that people shouldn’t panic. There are still no cases of the coronavirus in Hawaii–or even any suspected cases–and Green wants to assure everyone that state officials are doing everything they can to keep it that way.
“We don’t like it any more than anybody else. The federal government decided that because we have CDC capacity at our airports and because we are strategically located in between Asia and the mainland US that we should be one of the seven,” Green explained.
Green said that we’d also likely see fewer flights from China because of the ban President Trump has put on Chinese nationals visiting the US.
KHON: “When they say that they’re not going to be allowing Chinese nationals is or people from China to come to the states what does that look like are they stopping them before they get on the plane how does that work?”
“My expectation is that Chinese nationals, especially from the Wuhan region, but all over China will not be flying over to the United States. President Trump has decided that this would be a temporary travel ban until the threat is not there. We will only be seeing returning people to the United States. Of course, anybody that lives in Hawaii, we’re going to welcome them home, but if they’ve been in the region they will have to be quarantined for two weeks.”
He said that Hawaii residents who recently visited China may be quarantined to their own homes depending on what region they visited in China and if they exhibit any signs of illness.
If there is a need to quarantine large groups of people, Green said they are working on a solution.
“We do have very good military partners and if they do have space we would ask them for their support. In addition to that, isolating people in a hotel far away from a population or even renting out the better part of a hotel somewhere away from obviously away from Waikiki, away from our areas of population would be prudent.”
KHON: “How is this screening that’s going to start at noon Sunday any different than what we’re doing now, other than looking more closely at people coming from China?”
“Well now we have an absolute prioritization of any individuals that came from China. So if anyone has come from China at all or the Hubei province, those guys are at the absolute top, in front of the line. Then we can do a much more advanced screening whether or not they have any symptoms,” Green said.
“People are very smart they realize after reading and hearing about this virus, that people could still be asymptomatic, meaning the infection hasn’t manifested itself, making them sick yet. They’re right to say well, you might not know. That’s why the quarantine will be in place. If anyone comes from the Hubei province and they have arrived in Hawaii, they are going to be isolated in Hawaii for two weeks without any discussion–no discussion they have to be quarantined. So no one’s going to be exposed to them including very minimal teams that will have protective gear from our teams so we don’t get exposed.”
KHON: “Immigration and customs usually funnels all international passengers into one area. Will they be keeping those that are flying in from China, or that have recently visited China, separate from other visitors still Hawai’i?”
“They do need to. That would be prudent and that’s the kind of discussions that are going on right now. There has to be absolute separation from anybody that’s been in that at risk area as opposed to traveling from other places because otherwise you just doubled or tripled your number of people that could be exposed.”
KHON: “Does the CDC currently have enough employees to monitor or to screen at the airport and if not are they going to be bringing in additional help to do this?”
“I think they do need some additional personnel. My understanding is they only have about four people that are doing this routinely because we don’t do a lot of that. They will have to increase their staff.”
Green added that State officials are doing adding several layers of screening to ensure no one that is potentially infected could get through.
“We’re putting a lot of different safety areas and safety plans in place so I don’t want people to be too concerned. But we will be totally transparent so people will know what’s going on as far as any planes that come here, exactly if we’ve had any cases, which we have not had any, and exactly what people need to do to avoid contamination or exposure to any virus.”
Rep. Gene Ward (R), said sending flights from China to Hawaii could hurt the tourism industry.
“My concern is those six other places are mega-urban centers with diversified economies. We have an economy 50 percent depending on tourism. If we strike a blow in this area with the coronavirus, the industry is in jeopardy,” Ward said.
Ward said that he is reaching out to the White House to request that Hawaii be taken off the of the list of locations designated to screen flights from China.
For the full interview with Green, watch the video below: