by Andrew Walden
Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine of arrivals is not working.
To stop COVID, the tourism industry has been almost entirely shut down. As a result, over 37% of the state’s workforce has been laid off and thousands are lining up for free food.
This morning the State Attorney General announced the arrest of two 20-something honeymooners from suburban Sacramento. Their crime--going out for pizza at midnight. Instead of building a lifetime affinity for Hawaiian vacations, their memory is proudly trumpeted in the AG’s news release: “From the Honeymoon Suite to Cell Block.”
Media splashes like that may give people the illusion they are being protected from COVID, but it is just an illusion. Many quarantined travelers are receiving very little oversight or follow up. And worst of all, the quarantine process does not give us a path to restore tourism – and 200K lost jobs -- after COVID is eliminated from Hawaii.
According to DBEDT, only about 4,000 visitors have arrived since Gov Ige’s order took effect March 26, 2020—down from a million or so.
A skeleton schedule of near-empty trans-Pacific and inter-island flights is maintained mostly because they are a condition of federal aid.
Ige’s recovery Czar, Alan Oshima, tells Senators the goal is “…to reopen and to re-brand Hawaii as the safest place on earth….”
The problem is that there are no COVID-free states or countries which can send us COVID-free tourists.
The solution is simple. And it doesn’t have to wait for insiders to cook up a grandiose scheme.
To rebuild tourism the Governor should amend his emergency order to exempt from quarantine any visitor who can show a negative COVID test.
About 2-3% of the population has been tested for COVID in all of Hawaii’s primary tourist markets, except Japan. (See numbers below)
Before the virus, about 30,000 tourists arrived daily--2% to 3% of this number is 600 to 900 per day—on top of the current arrival numbers.
It's not very impressive, but it is a start.
COVID testing is becoming more available every day. Quick turnaround tests are being deployed. In another month that 2-3% might be 4-6%. Some travelers would seek out a COVID test so they could enjoy the deep discount airfares and an un-crowded Hawaiian vacation. Package tours might include a COVID test a week before departure.
The quarantine exemption allows an organic path for the COVID-free regrowth of tourism that can begin putting people back to work on day one.
Related: A Low-Risk Plan to Re-Start Hawaii’s Economy Now
COVID Test Numbers