Hawaii Tourism Authority funding return flights for tourists who violate self-quarantine protocols

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You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay in Hawaii. (And yes, you should probably just go home.)

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has partnered with the state’s Visitor Aloha Society to send home any tourists who arrived in Hawaii with no intentions to self-quarantine for 14 days or violated those quarantine orders, mandated by Governor David Y. Ige back in March.

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Jessica Lani Rich, president and CEO of the Visitor Aloha Society, told Hawaii News Now that her non-profit organization’s main purpose has always been to lend a helping hand to “victims of crime or other adversity they may have experienced in Hawaii.” Now, however, the Visitor Aloha Society is pivoting in order to keep tourists, and Hawaiians, safe from coronavirus.

“During this unprecedented public health crisis, we are supporting the return of individuals who arrive from the mainland who do not have pre-arranged lodging,” Rich told the outlet.

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The Hawaii Tourism Authority is funding the initiative — officially known as the COVID-19 Flight Assistance (CFA) Program — to the tune of $25,000, per a press release issued by the department last week. Under the program, visitors who arrive from the continental United States, and have no prearranged lodging (suggesting they may have arrived with no intention to self-isolate), will be returned to “their origin airport.”

These return trips would possibly be funded by the CFA program, though not necessarily: By April 16, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said it had facilitated the return of nine visitors, but purchased only five tickets. Three others were donated, and one that had been purchased for a visitor “was returned without the program having to expend funds on a ticket.”

By April 23, the CFA had helped to return an additional 10 visitors (for a total of 19) who were either unprepared to follow, or violated, the quarantine guidelines, Hawaii News Now reported.

The president and CEO of Visitor Aloha Society, which has partnered with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, claimed at least 19 people had been returned home via their joint program as of April 23.

The president and CEO of Visitor Aloha Society, which has partnered with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, claimed at least 19 people had been returned home via their joint program as of April 23. (iStock)

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A representative for Visitor Aloha Society was not immediately available to offer further comment.

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Gov. Ige originally issued an order on March 21 for all arriving visitors and residents, requiring them to self-quarantine for 14 days. He explained that the majority of the state’s cases had stemmed from incoming travelers and out-of-state visitors. On March 31, Ige issued a supplementary order requiring self-quarantine for people traveling between the Hawaiian islands themselves.