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California’s starting to reopen hotels. Hawaii just extended its shutdown

Surfers walk on a sidewalk along Waikiki Beach prior to the pandemic.
Surfers walk on a sidewalk along Waikiki Beach prior to the pandemic. Locals have the beach to themselves as Hawaii remains off-limits to visitors from the U.S. mainland.
(Hawaii Tourism Authority)

Hopes that Hawaii would reopen anytime soon were dashed against the coral reefs last week. Gov. David Ige extended until Aug. 1 his order that requires out-of-state travelers who visit the Aloha State to remain under mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Visitors who leave their hotel rooms for food or a stroll on a beach could be arrested.

Contrast that with California, which last week gave the green light for hotels, gyms, hair salons and other retail businesses to reopen, provided they adhere to state-mandated rules. Visitor bureaus from wine country to desert spas have been telling visitors they’re open for business. However, the Golden State’s stay-at-home order still urges residents to avoid nonessential travel.

Air travel now is a matter of far fewer people, more masks, more disinfectant, less food and drink; and, unless you’re a nosy reporter, a lot less conversation.

But back to Hawaii, whose strict visitor quarantine appears to be working.

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The state has a relatively low incidence of COVID-19: 728 confirmed cases and 17 deaths, as of Sunday. Officials want to keep it that way, for the safety of their residents and the long-term vitality of tourism, the islands’ biggest industry.

Upon entering Hawaii, mainland visitors must sign acknowledgment of the order and tell authorities what hotel or vacation rental they will be staying in. Violating the rules could mean a $5,000 fine and/or a year imprisonment, the order said. The visitor quarantine went into effect March 26.

The governor’s order also will lift current quarantine requirements for interstate travelers Tuesday. However, passengers will have their temperatures checked at the airport and anyone with a fever higher than 100.4 degrees will be denied boarding.

“We are working at opportunities to engage in safe, transpacific travel as quickly as we can,” Ige told reporters Wednesday.

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Though the governor speculated about creating travel “bubbles” with Pacific nations that have shrinking numbers of coronavirus cases, he remained concerned about letting in visitors from the western U.S. who could spread the virus.

Hawaii
A number of Hawaiian Airlines jets are parked on a runway at Honolulu’s airport in April.
(Hawaiian Airlines)

“The key markets that we’re monitoring domestically include California, Oregon, Washington state, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona,” he said at the news conference. “All of these Western states are now seeing spikes in their number of COVID-19 cases.”

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Much of the airline traffic from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii has shut down. On Saturday, 457 passengers arrived at the Honolulu airport, the only airport open in the state. Typically, the state greets about 30,000 travelers each day.

With tourism at a standstill, Hawaii’s unemployment rate hit 22% in April. By comparison, Nevada, another state reliant on hospitality, reported 28.2% unemployment for the same month.

Ige added that once the pandemic ends, he expects it to take about a year for Hawaii’s tourism numbers to bounce back.


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