BIG ISLAND

VACATION RENTAL ASSOCIATION

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  • August 04, 2020 11:57 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By John Burnett Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 12:05 a.m.



    Gov. David Ige indicated Monday the Sept. 1 date to allow trans-Pacific air travel without a 14-day quarantine for visitors who get a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding a Hawaii-bound plane isn’t written in stone.

    “I’m aware that the hotels have said three- to four-weeks notice is what they would like to see, if not more,” Ige said during an afternoon press conference. “And the airlines would like at least two weeks notice if there is going to be any change. So I will be meeting with the mayors and talking about the current conditions.

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    “Clearly, we would want to see a stopping of the increase in the numbers of new cases here in the state and, hopefully, begin the trend downward.”

    Ige said officials “continue to monitor the conditions here within the state, as well as around the country, and we’ll be making a further determination as we get closer to the Sept. 1 date.”

    Appearing before the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness earlier in the day, Ige said the state is trying to build “as robust a testing network as we can.”

    “We are having discussions with all of the pharmacists and all of the testing entities across the country, as we know it is important,” he said.

    There were 207 new cases reported statewide Monday, including two on Hawaii Island.

    State Health Director Bruce Anderson said, however, that 114 of those cases are “a result of delayed testing results.”

    “Even so, 93 cases is a high number for Hawaii, and we’d like to see that number decrease,” Anderson said. “Our ability to open our schools, welcome college students here and, ultimately, invite visitors to come is going to be contingent upon our maintaining a healthy community.

    “I think the rising number of positive cases can be attributed primarily to the lack of physical distancing and letting down your guard.”

    Anderson said he went to several Oahu beaches over the weekend and “was amazed at the number of people on the beaches without face coverings who were not physically distancing.”

    “People were acting as though there wasn’t a COVID outbreak, a pandemic that we’re dealing with,” he said. “… We must accept the new reality, based on our investigations and the high number of sustained cases, the virus is widespread on Oahu.

    “It is fair to say COVID-19 is now endemic. It is entrenched in the community. There is no longer any easily identifiable sources of exposure, in many cases.”

    Anderson said he would be meeting with Honolulu officials to “see what more the city can do to address some of the issues that are being raised, associated with gatherings and so forth.”

    Earlier in the pandemic, positive test results in Hawaii would be 1% to 2%, but now positive returns are 5% or 6%, Anderson said.

    “Anytime it gets over 5%, there’s reason for concern,” he said. “Some of the states where they’re having large outbreaks have rates of over 10% and 12-15%. Obviously, we don’t want to be there.”

    Anderson said most test results on Oahu are available within 24 hours and within 48 hours on the neighbor islands.

    “Turnaround time is very important, because we don’t know a person’s positive until the test is completed. And that’s when we start our contract tracing,” he said. “So the longer the time it takes to get a test result back, the less effective our contract tracing is.”

    Hospitalization rates statewide remain low, and there is still a ready supply of acute- and intensive-care beds and ventilators, Anderson said.

    According to Anderson, one of the challenges faced by local health care officials is that about one-third of the cases involve Pacific Islanders, who make up only about 4-5% of the state’s population. He said that’s for “various reasons, largely due to socioeconomic status.”

    Anderson said the disproportionate number of coronavirus-related infections among Pacific Islanders is “not just here on Oahu, it’s on the neighbor islands, as well.”

    “We attribute that to cultural differences, people closer to each other,” he said. “Also, often, they’re working front line in the service industry. … They often have jobs where they can’t … work from home. So there’s a number of risk factors they have that others don’t. … Certainly, there’s no reason to think, otherwise, they’re more susceptible.”

    According to Anderson, another factor among Pacific Islanders is “distrust of government.”

    “Many of them have been wronged in the past. And I think there’s still a lot of concern about whether … to believe what government’s saying,” he said.

    He said outreach workers take interpreters into those communities, and added that inroads have been made by working through their leaders to help gain their trust.

    Those high numbers among Pacific Islanders don’t include Native Hawaiians, Anderson said.

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    “Actually, Native Hawaiians … have a lower rate than you would expect, given their percentage of population here,” he said.

    Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

  • July 27, 2020 6:35 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By HNN Staff | July 27, 2020 at 4:08 PM HST - Updated July 27 at 4:08 PM 

    HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Details are still being finalized on both sides, but Hawaii is among the international destinations Japan is considering allowing travel to and from in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Governor’s Office confirmed Hawaii was one of the 13 destinations that Japan has considered safe for its residents to resume travel to. 

    Other countries on the list include Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.  

    Travelers form Japan would have to pass safety and health requirements, like testing negative for coronavirus if they wanted to come to the islands. 

    Hawaii is the only U.S. state being considered. A timeline for the new guidelines to go into effect has not yet been set up. 

    Gov. Ige said in a statement, “Japan and Hawaii enjoy longstanding cultural ties and a deep-rooted friendship that has enriched the lives of many generations. It’s important that we restore travel between Japan and Hawaii and we see this program as a way to make this possible, while also preventing the further spread of infections from COVID-19.”  

    Meanwhile, Hawaii has yet to open up its shores to travelers without a 14-day quarantine mandate. The so-called restart of tourism was pushed back until at least early September.

  • July 27, 2020 4:55 PM | Holly Cunningham (Administrator)

    State Land Use Commission takes up Hawaii County’s STVR law

    By Nancy Cook Lauer West Hawaii Today ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com | Monday, July 27, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

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    • Owners of this Kailua-Kona 5,0000-square-foot, $15,000 monthly short-term vacation rental on agricultural land is one of 20 asking the state Land Use Commission to rule their STVR an allowed use. (Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe/Special to West Hawaii Today)



    The question of whether Hawaii County can prohibit short-term vacation rentals on land classified as agriculture is now in the hands of the state Land Use Commission.

    Both the county and a group of 20 Kailua-Kona, Waimea and Captain Cook landowners have asked the LUC for a declaratory ruling. The commission considered the issue Thursday, then postponed the hearing until Aug. 12.

    The ruling will have far-reaching ramifications. Some 1.2 million acres on Hawaii Island — almost half of the land mass — is classified as agriculture.

    State law requires houses to be farm dwellings and have a connection to agriculture if they’re built on land classified under the state system as being in the agricultural district. The farm dwelling requirement took effect June 4, 1976, leading the county Planning Department to allow nonconforming use permits only for STVRs on lots created before that date.

    Farm dwellings are defined in state law as single-family dwellings located on and used in connection with a farm or where agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.

    “Farm dwellings may not be used as short-term vacation rentals,” Deputy Corporation Counsel John Mukai said. “Farm dwellings can only be used in connection with agricultural use and not for residential use.”

    The property owners disagree.

    “Contrary to the County’s understanding of Chapter 205, the laws governing the State Agricultural District do not regulate the length of rental agreements,” said Cal Chipchase, attorney for the property owners in filings. “Cutting through the doubletalk, County Ordinance No. 2018-114 allows anyone to rent a “farm dwelling” located in the State Agricultural District for residential or vacation purposes as long as the lease is for 31 days or more.”

    Chipchase points to testimony by county Planning Director Michael Yee that the county considers buildings built on agricultural land to be farm dwellings as long as the owner signs a farm dwelling agreement. There is little, if any, enforcement afterward to see if there is indeed any farming going on.

    Under grilling from two commissioners, Yee on Thursday tried to clarify the position. A farm dwelling, he said, is a permitted use on agricultural land, while an STVR is not.

    If someone signed a farm dwelling agreement and then doesn’t farm, “they’d be in violation and we may not find out five years down the road, 10 years down the road,” but farm dwellings are still a permitted use, Yee said.

    An STVR, on the other hand, isn’t a permitted use, Yee said, ”just as we wouldn’t necessarily allow a junkyard on that land.”

    Mary Alice Evans, director of the state Office of Planning, agreed with the county’s interpretation of the law.

    “Even if the county has not been effective in its enforcement of HRS § 205-4.5(a)(4), i.e., to identify and prosecute owners/operators of farm dwellings operating as STVRs, the law has always required that a farm dwelling be used in connection with a farm, and not for just residential uses or STVR uses,” Evans said in a July 17 filing. “The inability of the county to enforce these statutory provisions does not render the law invalid nor does it render the violators of the law in compliance or not subject to the law. … Accordingly, it is incumbent on the Commission to protect the Agricultural District by upholding the purpose and intent of the State Land Use Law by declaring that a STVR is not a permitted use of a farm dwelling in the Agricultural District.”

  • July 25, 2020 9:27 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)


    JULY 24, 2020 by BEAT OF HAWAII 74 COMMENTS

    Wrong Data and Missteps May Further Delay Hawaii Travel

    Updating the situation on the ground here in Hawaii, including poorly interpreted data used to make critical decisions, and what may happen next in terms of both mainland travel and interisland travel.

    Mainland travel scheduled to reopen in September. But will it?

    We are doubtful at this time whether mainland travel will resume then. The plan, for months, from the governor, was to reopen travel with the requirement for testing 72 hours in advance. But then multiple things caused that plan to fall apart.

    Governor Ige said yesterday, “When we had announced the Aug. 1 date back in June… the number of cases was low, or at least stable and the virus was not out of control on the mainland… Subsequent to that, we’ve seen the explosion of cases… We will assess what the conditions are as we approach September 1 to make another decision about whether we are ready; and more importantly, whether the virus is contained in those markets that are most important to us here in Hawaii.”

    Hawaii lacked foresight and planning for testing. 

    The state did not plan to offer on-site testing on arrival, which was a critical adjunct to pre-travel testing necessary to assure travel could resume. They instead were said to rely exclusively on what appears to be a singular, failed, and never revealed agreement with CVS for testing.  Hawaii’s health director touted that agreement as our saving grace. It was anything but.

    As so many of you have pointed out in hundreds of comments, tests just aren’t consistently available for travelers on the basis Hawaii wanted. Some may be, yes, but again, this would need to be widely available from all mainland to Hawaii gateways. And that didn’t happen, and is not likely to happen anytime soon. Or at least not until the flareups on the mainland are under control. Timing there is anyone’s guess.

    Will interisland travel without quarantine come to an end too?

    There is a distinct possibility that interisland travel could stop again. The reason is the flareups in Honolulu and the possibility of those being transferred to the ill-prepared neighbor islands. As you know, until mid-June, Hawaii also had a quarantine on inter-island travel.

    Regarding interisland, the governor said, “We are looking at the entire situation… We are also looking at hospital capacity, the ability to test and get results back within 24 to 48 hours, and then contact tracing… and then our ability to respond. Looking at all of those factors, we do continue to believe that it’s safe to allow interisland travel here in the state.”

    Is poorly interpreted data leading the state to wrong conclusions?

    The governor based his judgment on per capita increases being the same on each island, which, they are not. He said, “We still see that the prevalence rate of the virus in each of the counties are very similar in terms of a per capita basis.” And that came while the Department of Health reported 55 new cases just yesterday, the highest to date, of which 50 were in Honolulu, 3 on the Big Island and 2 on Maui.

    Actual county by county population percentage, and active (not released) case percentage is below. This is according to data from the State Department of Health and the 2019 US census. It shows that Oahu has a far greater percentage of active cases, in relation to its population. The situation poses the greatest risk to those on the neighbor islands from interisland travel.

    Oahu: 69% of the state’s population. 92% of active cases.
    Maui: 12% of the state’s population. 5% of active cases.
    The Big Island: 14% of the state’s population. 3% of active cases.
    Kauai: 5% of the state’s population. Less than 1% of active cases.

  • July 23, 2020 1:55 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)


    2020 Council Candidate Interviews

    Each interview is approximately 20 minutes

    The candidates are listed in order of District

    Questions can be found here



       


    Ikaika Rodenhurst

    District 5

              Bio          

    Video Interview




    Jane Clement

    District 7

    Bio

    Video Interview

      


    Rebecca Villegas

    District 7

         Bio

    Video Interview

    Holeka Inaba

    District 8

    Bio

    Video Interview


      


    Ranae Keane

    District 9

    Bio

    Video Interview


       

    Tim Richards

    District 9

    Bio

    Video Interview




    West Hawaii Association of REALTORS®
  • July 22, 2020 10:43 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By Chelsea Jensen West Hawaii Today cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com | Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 9:05 a.m.

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    • As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Douglas was spinning 75 mph winds and tracking west at 15 mph approximately 1,785 miles east of Hilo, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, which will monitor the storm until it crosses 140 degrees west longitude, at which time the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu will assume the role. 



    Hurricane Douglas — the first hurricane of the 2020 Eastern Pacific season — is expected to move near or over portions of the Hawaiian Islands this weekend, forecasters said Wednesday morning.

    The storm’s current track brings an increasing chance that strong winds and heavy rainfall could affect portions of the state beginning on Sunday, forecasters cautioned.

    As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Douglas was spinning 75 mph winds and tracking west at 15 mph approximately 1,785 miles east of Hilo, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, which will monitor the storm until it crosses 140 degrees west longitude, at which time the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu will assume the role.

    Hurricane-force winds currently extend outward from the center of the storm up to 15 miles while tropical-storm force winds reach outward up to 80 miles.

    Additional strengthening is forecast over the next day or two. Forecasters expect Douglas to peak mid-day Thursday as a Category 2 storm packing 110 mph winds more than 1,200 miles east of the islands.

    On Friday, once the storm has crossed into the Central Pacific, which is where Hawaii is located, forecasters expect Douglas will begin weakening as it encounters cooler waters.

    By 5 a.m. Sunday, Douglas is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm with 70 mph winds approximately 200 miles east of Hilo. The current forecast track takes the storm right over the Big Island into Monday.

    The next advisory will be issued at 11 a.m.

  • July 22, 2020 10:40 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By Nancy Cook Lauer West Hawaii Today ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com | Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

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    • Anchored by the white sands of Kaunaoa Bay, Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is dwarfed by its namesake, the dormant Mauna Kea volcano that towers 13,803 feet above sea level in the background. It is not unusual during winter months for the mountain to be capped with snow. Illustrates(Bloomberg News photo by Mauna Kea Resort Archive Collections).



    Hawaii Island is joining Maui and Kauai in exploring a new concept in gradually reopening their doors to tourists — a “resort bubble” where quarantining visitors would be allowed freedom to roam within the confines of a “geofence.”

    “(It’s) another idea we’ve been tossing out there,” Hawaii County Managing Director Roy Takemoto told the County Council Tuesday. “They would be allowed to stay at selected resorts and the resorts would control where the visitors would be allowed to range.”

    County officials and tourism authorities currently have more questions than answers. The system would depend on voluntary compliance by resort guests to be monitored. There are also questions surrounding how much space a resort could devote to the quarantiners and how amenities such as restaurants, shops and swimming pools would be handled.

    But the concept could be promising as a way to slowly bring visitors back and put hospitality workers back to work. Most hotels and resorts have had little traffic since the March shutdown of the state and the requirement that trans-Pacific visitors quarantine in their hotel or motel rooms for 14 days before being allowed out.

    The state is working on an alternative method of allowing visitors to bypass the quarantine provided they take a coronavirus screening test 72 hours before traveling. That system wasn’t ready in time for an Aug. 1 reopening, but the state hopes it will be ready by Sept. 1.

    Takemoto said all of the Big Island COVID-19 cases except a cluster at Kona Community Hospital have been travel-related. That’s one of the reasons Mayor Harry Kim has been urging the state to take a cautious approach to reopening.

    Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder agrees with the cautious approach.

    “I don’t agree with the administration frequently, but in this case I agree,” he said. “Hot spots are unable to test their citizens and get results in three days. … That worries me. (Tourists) would be jumping into a plane full of people and not get their test results until into they’re three days into their vacation.”

    Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy also needed more assurance.

    “In the past when we were trying to address COVID, there were different messages from the state,” she said. “If we had a consistent way of tracking people coming to the Big Island, I think it will go a long way toward slowing the curve or smashing the curve.”

    Stephanie Donoho, administrative director of the Kohala Coast Resort Association, said Tuesday the member resorts were just learning about the concept and weren’t ready to comment before evaluating it.

    Craig Anderson, chairman of the Hawaii Island chapter of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association and vice president of operations at Mauna Kea Resort, participated Tuesday in a Zoom conference briefing tourism officials about the program.

    “It’s very early and it’s complicated. … All of us in the visitor industry support having a safe environment for our employees as well as our visitors,” Anderson said. “We’re trying to be a lubricant to help surface solutions and help move things forward. … It’s another example of us all working with the uncertainly of this bizarre pandemic and how we create a new future for all of us.”

  • July 22, 2020 10:38 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By Big Island Now

    July 21, 2020, 1:11 PM HST (Updated July 21, 2020, 1:11 PM) 

    Athletes wade into Kailua Bay before embarking on the 2.4-mile ROKA swim course at the 2019 Vega IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i on Saturday, Oct. 12. PC: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for IRONMAN

    The 2020 version of the Big Island’s premier sporting event will not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    IRONMAN announced Tuesday it has canceled its 2020 World Championship, held annually in Kailua-Kona. The IRONMAN World Championship will return to Kona on Oct. 9, 2021, and the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will return on Sept. 17 and 18, 2021, and take place in St. George, Utah. The 70.3 World Championship for 2020 has also been called off.

    As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact events around the world, both world championship events have seen a majority of their respective qualifying events postponed or unable to take place in 2020, impeding the ability to qualify athletes for the respective 2020 championship events, IRONMAN said in a press release.

    Based on the schedule, the continuation of existing travel restrictions worldwide, and other circumstances beyond control, IRONMAN’s world championship events cannot proceed as rescheduled, the release said. 

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    “It is with a heavy heart that we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 editions of the IRONMAN World Championship and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship,” said Andrew Messick, President and Chief Executive Officer for The IRONMAN Group. “While we were hopeful that we could welcome our athletes, their families, and supporters to these events in early 2021, the continued impact of the pandemic makes this impossible. It is tough to make this decision in July, but it will provide the necessary clarity for our athletes, host cities, and partners.”

    Athletes who qualified for the 2020 editions of the IRONMAN World Championship and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship event will be contacted directly. They will have the opportunity to race in the 2021 or 2022 editions of the respective World Championships, the release said.

    In June, IRONMAN announced a new IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifying method for athletes. The HOKA ONE ONE IRONMAN Virtual Racing Championship Series is a four-weekend long regulated age-group competition designed to reward top-performing athletes with IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifying slots. 

    Athletes who earned qualifying slots, via that Championship Series, will now receive slots to the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship taking place in St. George, Utah, on Sept. 17 and 18, 2021.

    For more information and event details for the IRONMAN World Championship, visit www.ironman.com/im-world-championship. Further updates on the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship can be found at www.ironman.com/im703-world-championship.

    For more information on the IRONMAN brand and global event series, visit www.ironman.com.

  • July 19, 2020 8:46 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By Nancy Cook Lauer West Hawaii Today ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com | Sunday, July 19, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

    • Screen grab of Facebook live session with Paul Jones, Deputy Chief for the Department of the Attorney General Investigations Division, left, with Attorney General Clare Connors and Gov. David Ige, July 16, 2020.

    The state isn’t ready to reopen to tourists Sept. 1 and it’s not ready to bring out-of-state college students back to campus Aug. 24, Mayor Harry Kim said in an hour-long interview Thursday.

    Kim, who spent decades in Civil Defense, including years at its helm, said his operational experience has taught him to locate the weak links in any procedural chain. If one link fails, the whole operation is likely to fail, he said.

    Plans to use a combination of preflight testing with 14-day quarantines for those who aren’t tested or who test positive, simply aren’t feasible without a way of differentiating between the two groups and properly monitoring the quarantiners, Kim said.

    The state wasn’t ready to do that Aug. 1, its first planned reopening, and it won’t be ready Sept. 1 either, Kim said. He said he’d urged the governor and his fellow mayors to not attach a date on reopening, but to wait until the state is ready, especially with the “explosive” situation of double-digit increases in cases and deaths on the mainland.

    “The mission is to protect the people of the state of Hawaii. The system is not ready,” Kim said. “I know I stand alone. But the risk to me is just not acceptable.”

    Kim has often been the odd man out in discussions with the mayors and governor.

    “We are on the threshold of major decision-making. I wish I was wrong. I just don’t feel comfortable with where we’re at right now,” Kim said. “The governor has been informed of that.”

    But he’s also been on the leading edge of responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Kim issued an emergency proclamation in February, days before the governor or other mayors. He set up a multi-agency, public-private task force in March, which is now being emulated at the state level. He created a travelers’ database that’s now being replaced by one the state created.

    Hawaii Island is by far the most successful recently tracking down and arresting quarantine breakers. From July 13 to 16, Hawaii County arrested 99 people, compared to just 21 on Oahu, where most tourists debark. Kauai County arrested 46 and Maui 16 during that same period.

    Attorney General Clare Connors, in a Thursday Facebook live session with Gov. David Ige and Paul Jones, deputy chief for the Department of the Attorney General Investigations Division, defended her agency’s enforcement of the 14-day trans-Pacific traveler quarantine.

    The team calling quarantined visitors is made up of workers from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, Hawaii County Civil Defense and the Maui Police Department. There are approximately 80 members on this calling team, and they work to call quarantined visitors from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, including weekends and holidays. They have contacted well over 27,000 travelers and have made more than 113,000 phone calls, texts and emails since the quarantine order went into effect at the end of March, a press release stated.

    “Enforcement of the quarantine is always going to be a challenge. We know that this is something that is new to our law enforcement community. It’s a very stressful time in the state of Hawaii in general,” Connors said during the Facebook live event. “And so, the idea that we have persons who are subject to quarantine and possibly breaking quarantine causes a lot of stress. But what I do want to reassure people is that we are aware of the need to enforce. And we have set up systems to enforce not just at the airports so that when people come through, they are appropriately screened, they sign orders that they are made aware of the fact that they are subject to these orders, and that it’s for the safety of our community.”

    Many of the public watching the feed were skeptical.

    “Quarantine does not work. Honor system does not work,” said Sarina Wong. “People either break quarantine or have company while their quarantining! Got to figure out something!”

    Gigi Mano agreed.

    “We’re making the sacrifices while you’re allowing visitors to continue to fly in with no enforcement whatsoever!!!,” she wrote.

    A new modified plan will allow students on two islands to participate in campus activities even while they’re in 14-day quarantine, provided they test negative and meet other health requirements.

    Students attending college at campuses on Oahu and Kauai will be allowed the modified quarantine, under plans currently in the works. Kim and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino weren’t supporting the plan, so those islands aren’t reopening as quickly to students. Kim said about half of university of Hawaii at Hilo students come from Texas, Nevada and California, the states with some of the highest COVID-19 hotspots.

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