News

Military Traveling Inter-Island Restricted to PTA, Officials Say

August 18, 2020, 7:44 AM HST
* Updated August 19, 10:16 AM
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Military personal traveling inter-island for work-related purposes are exempt from the 14-day quarantine, said Tim Sakahara, public information officer for the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation.

It’s been a week since Gov. David Ige reinstated the inter-island quarantine due to a surge in new COVID-19 cases overwhelming O‘ahu. While an exemption for inter-island travelers is available for medical needs and essential workers, military officials confirm units traveling to the Big Island are restricted to the base.

“While on base they are closely monitored to include daily health screening and temperature checks,” said Public Affairs Officer Michael O. Donnelly with the US Army Garrison Hawaii at Pōhakuloa Training Area. “Any requests to leave the base for critical, mission-essential needs are reviewed and assessed by PTA leadership.”

The prevention measures in place, Donnelly added, limit contact with the Hawai‘i community and reduce the risk of transmission for the safety of island residents.

“They are required to wear a facial covering and practice physical distancing to the practicable extent possible,” Sakahara stated in an email Monday.

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The military components also have measures in place for travel. Military travelers should check with their local chain of command before flying.

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To comply with CDC, local and state guidelines, Donnelly said, bed space in the Quonset huts by 50%, social distancing is mandated on base, common areas are sanitized daily, and the PTA workforce is encouraged and permitted to work from home; however, they have a mission to support the troops so they will continue this mission and remain safe.

There are several units from the US Army and Marines expected to travel to PTA for previously scheduled training in the upcoming weeks and months with training occurring routinely at the Big Island base.

“Currently, we have just under 400 here to maintain their proficiency and readiness,” Donnelly said. “They are all practicing enhanced force health protection measures for their safety and the safety of the local community.”

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Military leadership continues to assess the appropriate balance between precautionary measures and essential training requirements so service members can maintain readiness for any contingency and provide for our national defense, Donnelly stated.

Per a Department of Defense policy, Donnelly said, he is prohibited from announcing numbers of military personnel who tested positive for COVID-19 due to operational security reasons. Those reasons include preventing adversaries from collecting information about military strength in specific geographic locations.

However, the Army does share all available information with Hawaii public health authorities. Tripler Army Medical Center provides all DoD COVID-19 positive test results to the Hawaii State Department of Health on a daily basis, as we work together to monitor and take appropriate actions to safeguard community health.

“Thus far the Army is very satisfied with the results of preventative measures in place preventing the spread of COVID-19 amongst our training populations,” Donnelly said.

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