HONOLULU, Hawaii – The state agency that is normally working to attract tourists to Hawaii is now offering to pay visitors to leave amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has given $25,000 to the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) to help pay to send people back home if they violate the state’s quarantine orders.
In late March, Hawaii Gov. David Ige ordered all individuals, both residents and visitors, who arrive or return to the state to self-quarantine for 14 days. Since then, tourists have been encouraged not to travel to the state.
“With the majority of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases linked to travel, it is critical that we further mitigate the spread of the virus by both residents and visitors who are coming from out-of-state,” said Gov. Ige.
So far, Hawaii’s attorney general’s office said in a press release Thursday that VASH has paid to send at least 19 people back to their airports of origin during this coronavirus crisis.
Officials say those 19 people include a pair from San Diego that had been arrested for violating quarantine, a woman from Los Angeles who posted her outdoor activities on social media, and two people who were caught violating quarantine once, and then switched hotels and violated it again.
For individuals arrested for violating the self-quarantine rules, they have the option of arranging payment of fines with the courts in lieu of returning to Hawaii for trials.
Hawaii State Attorney General Clare Connors says the assistance of VASH during the crisis is invaluable to law enforcement.
“The ability to return people quickly to their airports of origin during the coronavirus crisis greatly assists law enforcement’s ability to ensure the success of our statewide emergency measures,” said Connors. “The fact that scarce government funds do not need to be expended for these return trips also helps fulfill the mission of keeping Hawaii safe. All of us in the law enforcement community are deeply grateful for this partnership.”
As of Friday afternoon, Hawaii has confirmed nearly 600 cases of COVID-19 and at least 12 people have died in the state from the illness, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.