Ige Activates National Guard, State Turns Away Aimless Arrivals at Airports

April 3, 2020, 5:40 PM HST (Updated April 3, 2020, 5:40 PM)
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Gov. Ige attends the deployment ceremony for Hawaiʻi Army National Guard units. Courtesy photo.

Gov. David Ige on Friday announced multiple measures to further secure Hawai‘i borders and enforce stay-at-home orders in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, which has now been confirmed in 319 patients across the state of Hawai‘i.

Ige ordered the partial activation of four units of the Hawai‘i National Guard, one assigned to each of the state’s four major counties. More than 250 members of the Guard will support the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Operations Center, the State Joint Information Center and handle logistics of personal protective equipment shipped to the state from the national strategic stockpile.

The Guard may also be called upon to support local police operations, search-and-rescue operations and the enforcement of mandated travel quarantine and stay-at-home orders, said Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi Jr., Joint Task Force Commander, Hawai‘i National Guard.

“The National Guard (is) trained to do a wide variety of activities,” Ige said.

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State of Air Travel

The governor also said that in the wake of reports of homeless people arriving in the islands by plane, he has issued a directive to those screening incoming travelers.

“Anyone who arrives here without a place to stay, they will be immediately sent back,” Ige said.

Only 89 visitors arrived in Hawai‘i via air travel Thursday, April 2, including only two who deplaned at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.

According to numbers provided by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, just 543 people in total came to the state by plane Thursday. For the first time, there were zero arrivals from Japan, Ige said.

Still, reports indicate the Ige administration wants to take travel limits beyond the 14-day, mandatory quarantine now in effect through April 30 on all returning residents, visitors and those traveling inter-island without an essential function exemption.

The Federal Aviation Administration made it clear in discussions with the administration that shutting down an airport isn’t something the state has the authority to do.

“No one can stop people from getting on aircraft at public airports,” Ige said. “Our quarantine for all incoming (travelers) is the best way for us to stop visitors from coming.”

Other Efforts to Slow Spread of COVID-19

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially updated its coronavirus guidelines, recommending that all residents of the United States wear a cloth mask anytime they venture out of their homes to mitigate the proliferation of the virus.

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Ige urged the public not to wear N95 or surgical masks, as those should be reserved for and donated to healthcare providers and first responders on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Thirty-three hotels across Hawai‘i are going to allow medical personnel to stay in their rooms free-of-charge to help minimize risk to families. The initiative could begin as early as Monday.

The governor also said he’s asked President Donald Trump to allow Hawai‘i to transfer state inmates to the federal detention center in Honolulu, where the state has a contract to rent cells.

“At the present time, they are not accepting transfers, even though they are not at full capacity,” Ige said.

Overcrowding has prompted the state to make and/or consider hundreds of early releases of inmates who meet specific criteria, as COVID-19 presents a significant threat of spread inside the confined quarters of prison facilities.

Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, said a decision may come as soon as Monday on sites selected for the build-out of alternative healthcare facilities. He said the state is leaning toward the Hawai‘i Convention Center “to decompress hospitals if we get a surge.”

Inside the Infection Numbers

Alii Health Center nurse delivers COVID-19 test samples to Clinical Labs on Oahu after testing drive on Saturday. Submitted by Anne Broderson.

An elderly O‘ahu man, who was in critical condition on life support for several weeks, became Hawai‘s third coronavirus-related fatality, the state announced Friday. He fell ill after returning from a trip to Washington State in early March.

“It’s a tragic reminder that the spread of a COVID-19 is a threat to all of us,” said Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson.

DOH also confirmed the first case of the virus on Moloka’i Friday, saying the infected individual had a history of travel to Las Vegas and has been transported to Honolulu for hospital care.

All told, there were 34 new cases of COVID-19 reported statewide overnight, bringing the total case count to 319. Of those, 270 are residents and 25 are visitors. Thus far, 78 people have been released from isolation and are considered recovered, Anderson said.

He added that while individuals from the same family have been infected, likely be the same source, and people at social gatherings have experienced similar outcomes of infection, there are no large clusters in Hawai‘i indicating widespread transmission of the virus in any particular community.

The state had conducted more than 12,000 coronavirus tests as of Friday. Widespread testing will continue.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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