Councilwoman Pine objects to military quarantine exemption

Coronavirus

A mandatory 14-day quarantine is still in effect for all visitors and residents who fly into Hawaii, and interisland.

The quarantine rules have been in effect since April for all non-essential workers.

On Friday, Maj. General Kenneth Hara, the state adjutant general and director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, sent out a memo to exempt military and family members from the mandatory quarantine.

The memo starts by stating, “all military service members traveling to Hawaii for official business are considered essential travel for critical infrastructure and are not subject to the 14-day self-quarantine rule.”

It goes on to state that, “the State ask military service members on business in Hawaii follow the previous guidelines set forth for the stay-at-home order to reduce risk of virus spread.” The memo identifies leaving a residence for essentials like food, medicine, authorized duties, medical care and that they must utilize facial coverings when in the public.

The memo adds, “Additionally, I am authorizing family members that move to Hawaii, as part of a permanent change of station (PCS), also be designated as essential travel and not subjected to the 14-day self-quarantine. The state also requests that family members abide by the stay-at-home guidelines for 14 days.”

The last paragraph of the memo reads, “Family members who travel that are not listed on PCS orders and military members that are not traveling on official orders will be subjected to the self-quarantine order.”

On Saturday, Honolulu City Council member Kym Pine sent a letter to Hara objecting his memo.

She wrote, “I am writing to object to the May 29 memorandum by the State of Hawai‘i DoD granting a blanket exemption to all military service members traveling to Hawai‘i for official business, thereby releasing them from the otherwise mandatory 14-day self-quarantine rule.

“I further object to the quarantine exemption for family members arriving in the islands as part of a permanent change of station. For the state to simply request that these family members abide by the 14-day stay-at-home guidelines, is insufficient.

“I am adamantly against this blanket exemption. That it does not take into consideration where they are coming from, is extremely concerning. As a military spouse and an official that represents a large military population, I can attest that many were able to still do their jobs while quarantined.

“I ask you to reconsider your blanket order and instead, institute exemptions only following required COVID testing, only under strict observation and guidance and for special cases only.”

On Sunday, Pine told KHON2 that the exemption is not fair to residents who have sacrificed a lot over the last few months.

“When we give special treatment to people coming here, and not allowing residents the same treatment, it just creates a lot of anger, and it’s starting to build,” she said.

She said people are concerned that a family could move to Hawaii from an infected area.

“My whole role is to be the voice of the average person saying, ‘wait a second, we are sacrificing so much, yet a person that comes from a highly infected area gets an automatic exemption?’ she continued.

Pine’s husband is in the military, she said he had to undergo quarantine when he returned from duty.

“He had to quarantine and it was very hard to do his job, but he found a way to do it,” she said.

She said the state as a whole need to be careful right now.

“A lot of people who sacrificed so much, lost their jobs, lost their businesses, are very sensitive right now, and they want to make sure all of their sacrifices don’t get ruined by someone who carelessly comes here and gets an exemption and is infected,” she continued.

She noted the large parties over Memorial Day weekend.

“If some careless person that’s in the military goes to a 300-person party, does not social distance, and they have infections and because of their actions we have to suffer and that’s unacceptable to me,” Pine said.  

She said strict guidelines need to be in place before exempting anyone to the quarantine rules.

“We flattened the curve because of these strict guidelines and to loosen it up for a section of people, important or not, it just lessens our sacrifices and makes it all meaningless and puts us at risk of closing down again,” she said.

The U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii wrote on its Facebook page regarding the memo, “All Soldiers, civilians and families traveling or returning to Hawaii, whether on official orders or personal travel, will still need to quarantine. While the state may not require incoming military personnel and their families on official orders to quarantine, U.S. Army Pacific does.”

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