Hawaii governor issues stay-at-home order to slow virus

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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Monday ordered people across the state to stay at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, unless they work in selected businesses or operations deemed essential like health care facilities and grocery stores.

Residents may also leave home to buy food, exercise or take care of the elderly so long as they stay at least 6 feet away from other people as much as possible. The order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and will remain in place through April 30.

“You should stay at home. If you need to go to work, go to work and when you’re done with work, you should come back home. If you need to get groceries and necessities, you should go get groceries and necessities. For any other time you should be at home,” he said at a news conference.

The move comes after the mayors of Honolulu and Maui counties in recent days announced their own stay-at-home orders. Honolulu's order took effect Monday at 4:30 p.m. Some of Oahu's largest malls, Ala Moana Center and Pearlridge, both announced they would close in response.

Over the weekend, Ige issued an emergency proclamation requiring travelers to come to the islands to stay in quarantine for 14 days after they arrive. Officials said they expect most tourists simply won't come after hearing about the new rule, which takes effect Thursday.

Residents will no doubt return, but officials are counting on them to show aloha and follow the new mandate out of concern for their community.

“Let’s not infect anyone else from our beautiful state,” Kenneth Hara, the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said over the weekend.

Yet Hara acknowledged the rule will be difficult to enforce.

All those arriving will be required to fill out a form with their name, phone number and address where they are staying. An official will check the identification of those arriving and verify the information on their form.

Flight crews won’t have to follow the quarantine but will have their temperatures taken. Those with elevated temperatures will have to isolate themselves.

Police officers will be responsible for enforcing the quarantine.

To date, 77 people in Hawaii have tested positive for COVID-19, including 21 new cases reported Monday. Four people have required hospitalization.

Officials say hotels will call those with upcoming reservations to inform them that the mandate will require them to stay in their hotel rooms for two weeks or for the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter.

Hara said authorities will ask hotels to let them know when someone isn’t complying.

“I don’t think there’s much appetite for 14 days in a hotel. As much as people like visiting a hotel, they come to Hawaii to sleep in the hotel and spend a lot of time out of their room,” said Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

A day after Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced the new rules on Saturday, Hawaiian Airlines said it would suspend most of its flights to Hawaii from outside the state, while paring back its inter-island offerings.

Hawaiian plans to maintain one daily nonstop flight between Honolulu and Los Angeles and another between Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa to maintain what it called “a baseline of out of state access.”

Jerry Agrusa, professor at the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management, said he wishes the state would just put a stop to passenger air travel.

“We’re an island. We could be the place that would be least affected if we shut down the planes,” Agrusa said.

Then, when the virus passes, Hawaii would be the first place to be healthy, he said.

Agrusa was also critical of the state for waiting until Thursday to implement the quarantine. This allows people to move their flight plans up to get here before the mandate kicks in, he said.

Bruce Anderson, the director of the state Department of Health, said Hawaii needed time to allow people to change their travel plans.

“I think we’ve moved as quickly as you can without creating mass confusion," Anderson said.

Ige said he set Thursday as the date for the rule to take effect to allow industry partners time to adjust. Hawaiian Airlines said it would keep its regular flight schedule through that day to allow visitors to Hawaii to get home and to bring planes back to the islands.

Hara said the number of visitor arrivals have already plummeted 67% since Ige last week asked people to postpone their Hawaii vacations for at least one month. Three-quarters of the decline has been from other countries, he said.

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