19 Travelers to Hawai‘i Sent Back Home to Airports of Origin During COVID-19 Crisis

April 23, 2020, 1:17 PM HST · Updated April 23, 1:17 PM
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Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Airports Division District Office Tower. File photo courtesy: HDOT

With $25,000 in funding from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i or VASH has paid to send 19 people back to their airports of origin during the COVID-19 crisis.

Earlier this week, VASH paid for tickets for Ricky Swan and Joyce Ann Walker of San Diego after they’d been arrested for violating quarantine.

Last week, Aarona Browning Lopez was sent back to Los Angeles after posting her outdoor activities on social media. Numerous local residents complained that she was not observing the quarantine requirements, leading to her arrest and prosecution by the Attorney General’s office. After she pled guilty to quarantine violations, special agents from the Attorney General’s office escorted her to her plane.

The two individuals apprehended late Wednesday, Kimberly Tien and Edwin Htun, were able to book their own flights. They initially were caught violating quarantine and given the opportunity to comply. They then changed hotels and violated again. Their prosecution by the Attorney General’s office is pending, but “as these quarantine violations are misdemeanors, they may be resolved in absentia,” state officials said.  Special agents from the Attorney General’s office directed their escort to a flight to ensure their departure from the State.

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Jessica Lani Rich, VASH President and CEO said, “We’ve been helping victims of crime or other adversity they may have experienced in Hawai‘i, for the past 23 years. 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 and may need financial assistance for their return flights.”

For visitors who do have money to pay for their flights, VASH is helping with booking. So far during the COVID-19 pandemic, flights have been arranged to at least a half-dozen mainland airports and to Guam.

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 Hawai‘i for trials.

Hawai‘i State Attorney General Clare Connors said, “The assistance of VASH during this 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. The fact scarce government funds do not need to be expended for these return trips also helps fulfill the mission of keeping Hawaiʻi safe. All of us in the law enforcement community are deeply grateful for this partnership.”

“Ultimately, it’s hoped that anyone thinking of coming to Hawai‘i will delay their plans until the state no longer requires quarantine measures to ensure the safety of the community. For visitors and returning residents, it is imperative they abide by the 14-day, mandatory self-quarantine not only to avoid legal action, but to respect others by not potentially spreading COVID-19,” state officials said in a press release.

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