Breaking quarantine could mean prison time for tourists in Hawaii

(CNN) – Moving police patrols. Uniformed soldiers manning checkpoints. A large surveillance network of hotel staff and health professionals looking for anyone who breaks the quarantine.

This is not an authoritarian dictatorship. It is the US state of Hawaii, where officials have enforced some of the most stringent measures in the country that aim to stop the spread of coronavirus.

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As governments around the world work to level the curve for new viral infections, the place is known for its "aloha spirit" – and state law on the books who require compassion for others – have chosen tough love to ensure residents and visitors safety.

For some tourists escaping to the tropical islands to ride out the pandemic, the flouting of Hawaii's rigid response to public health has meant prison.

Newlyweds behind the posts

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Last week, police arrested a couple from California who visited Hawaii on their honeymoon after ignoring warnings about staying in their hotel room.

When you arrive at Waikiki, says the authorities the man and woman were informed by hotel staff that the state's emergency pandemic commands required them to self-quarantine. The couple allegedly ignored the instructions and left the hotel. After returning to the hotel around midnight, they were again warned by the hotel staff not to leave their room. After they had quarantined again the following day, the hotel staff called police, who arrested the couple.
In late April, a man in Florida and a woman in Illinois were also arrested by Honolulu police after breaking the quarantine. Hotel staff notified authorities after seeing the couple return to their room with shopping bags and takeaway food, according to state health authorities.
The same day, authorities say a witness saw a 60-year-old California man with jet skis off the north coast of Oahu, despite orders for quarantine. Later, he was seen leaving a home and was followed to a Costco sale. State investigators placed him under arrest when he returned to his car with groceries, says the authorities.

"Our original goal is to educate people," sheriff Audra salespeople at the Maui Police Department told CNN. "Our efforts are meant to keep people safe and prevent them from spreading the virus."

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But Sellers says police patience only goes so far when dealing with repeat offenders.

"If they have been warned and do it again, we will arrest them," she said.

& # 39; Extreme but necessary & # 39;

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Resorts are temporarily closed around Kaanapali Beach in Lahaina, Hawaii, April 24.

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Mia Shimabuku / Bloomberg via Getty Images

In late March, Hawaii's government David Ige signed an emergency order requiring on-site shelter provisions for all Hawaiians and tourists. According to the order, everyone arriving in the state must undergo 14 days of self-quarantine.

"These actions are extreme, but necessary, to level the curve and lay the foundation for our recovery," Ige said.

Newcomers must complete documentation with contact and lodging information, and a signature is required that acknowledges one's understanding that quarantine violation is a punishable offense that can be punishable by a $ 5,000 fine and up to one year in prison, according to the State Department of Transportation.

But enforcement efforts don't stop there. Airport health officials are required to call the cell number provided by a passenger to ensure it is valid. After verifying the contact information, a representative then calls the hotel where a visitor intends to stay, to confirm that it is an existing reservation.

CNN spoke to a Hawaii hotel manager who asked not to be named to speak freely about how resorts help law enforcement with state emergency orders.

"Our guests receive periodic calls from state health officials, police and hotel staff to make sure they are actually in their rooms," the hotel manager said.

"Some of our hotels issue one-time keys, which allow a guest to come into their room upon check-in, but do not allow re-entry," he said. "For the first time offenders, our staff will escort them back to their rooms. If they leave, we'll call the police."

The hotel manager described a surveillance network of authorities, hotel staff and local residents that was intended to ensure that visitors did not break quarantine orders. He said he has witnessed police and members of the National Guard routinely checking visitors.

A spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard confirmed to CNN that some service members have been assigned to bike with police to check on residents and tourists.

Aloha is a two-way street

At first glance, the draconian measures introduced in Hawaii appear to run counter to the Aloha State's reputation for kindness and compassion. However, in an interview with CNN, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell described the rationale behind the tough approach.

"We, like most of the United States, still face the challenges of this pandemic," he said. "But right now, we see travel as bringing the virus, and we prefer that people do not come until it is safe to travel again."

Caldwell understands that the strict measures may appear to contradict Hawaii's welcoming spirit, but he notes that it is incumbent on visitors who protect the islands to understand the damage a widespread outbreak can do to residents of the archipelago state.

"We're a place with great aloha, and aloha still remains," he said. "But aloha works both ways. It works from the perspective of the people who live here and the people who visit here. If you come here and act irresponsibly, you don't show aloha to the place you say you care about."

While Hawaii's stay-at-home and quarantine orders are among the most comprehensive in the nation, they appear to be working. On Friday, proclaimed state health authorities there were no new Covid-19 cases for the first time since March 13.

Although the emergency measures seem to stop the spread of the virus, Caldwell acknowledges that they also come with a high cost for the tourism industry's bottom line.

"We're going to have a real fight because we're so addicted to tourism, and we certainly want tourists to come back," he said. "But we have to figure out how to get back to where they are safe, and we are also safe."

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