Planning a Hawaii vacation? The United States declared a national health emergency because of the coronavirus.
Is coronavirus in Hawaii? Many visitors from China are enjoying Waikiki Beach this weekend. Luckily no cases of coronavirus are yet reported from the Aloha State. Residents, visitors, and State officials want to keep it this way.
The Hawaii tourism industry is the biggest economic driver for Hawaii. It is also the largest export for the State. Hawaii Tourism has been put into the hot-seat on the exploding coronavirus emergency in the United States.
There are not many Republican representatives elected to serve as a legislator in Hawaii. Therefore, it may be a surprise that no other than Republican Representative Gene Ward is taking a stand against the Federal Government and his own fellow party leaders and of course against President Donald Trump. He claims the Trump administration is playing Russian roulette with the largest and most important industry for the Aloha State, the Travel Industry.
It appears Ward gets it when saying: “Putting Hawaii on the list of allowed airports to bring those suspected with coronavirus is too great of a danger to our economy. The hospitality industry is one of the most volatile industries in the world — just one active case of coronavirus reported in Honolulu could stop the flow of the millions of tourists who want to visit Hawaii each year. It’s just too risky for us.”
Ward is calling for a complete closure for Honolulu Airport to any passengers suspected of containing the coronavirus.
Honolulu Airport will be one out of seven gateways to the United States with isolated quarantine areas for an unspecified number of additional travelers diverted to Hawaii on flights to the U.S. from China. Currently, the only scheduled flight between China and Hawaii is Honolulu to Shanghai on China Eastern Airlines. The flight is operating 6 non-stop flights a week. This number will be reduced to 2 flights weekly soon.
“This is playing Russian Roulette with our economy, and we don’t deserve to be put on this list,” Rep. Ward said in a media interview with the local Star-Advertiser, adding that he will ask Gov. David Ige and the White House to remove Honolulu from the list of designated airports for flights to the U.S. from China.
Hawaii is 2,600 miles and more than 5 flight hours away from California, the nearest neighboring U.S. state.
In a surprise move, federal officials announced Friday that Honolulu will be one of seven airports where all flights to the U.S. from China will be collected starting Sunday. This raises the panic level among residents and tourism leaders in the Aloha State. It will also not be of assurance for visitors to select Hawaii as their holiday destination.
The U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak in China, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to China — other than the immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The federal government also ordered an unprecedented 14-day quarantine of those who visited Hubei province within the last two weeks.
Tourism is everyone’s business in Hawaii and the pillow of the economy. Hawaii State officials and those running the most important industry were stunned by the emergency order by President Donald Trump to contain the deadly virus but say they are preparing to keep the local community safe.
There is a low chance of importing the virus to Hawaii, but if it does, Oahu, the island where Honolulu Airport is, stretching only 45 miles long, with less than a million people and the capital city of the state, may be in tourism jeopardy.
The Star-Advertiser quoted Hawaii Lt. Governor Josh Green: “I understand people would prefer that Hawaii not have been designated, but that was a federal decision.” The Lt. Governor is also an emergency room physician. “It was a sudden flurry of decisions from D.C. that set in motion the additional need to plan for quarantines. That’s what caught everyone off guard. We’re not expecting to have a large number of cases. We’re expecting less traffic unless there’s a sudden emergency. Hopefully, we’ll have none, but we are ready to screen anybody as necessary.”
The true concern for Hawaii is on how many flights could be diverted to the state, and what the capacity is for a worst-case scenario. Plans are to quarantine airline passengers that aren’t really that ill in isolated hotels. It remains to be seen what isolated hotels the federal government is referring to. There really are no isolated hotels on the island of Oahu.
According to the report, the reason the Honolulu airport was selected was because of its location between Asia and the West Coast and its capacity for enhanced screening at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, which has one of only 20 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine stations staffed with medical workers who screen ill travelers entering the United States to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Republican Representative Gene Ward has served as the House Minority Leader in Hawaii (1993-1997, 2011-2012, 2018-present) and as the House Minority Floor Leader (2017-present). He is also the co-founder of the Small Businesses Caucus alongside former Representative David Stegmaier.