Hawaii locals increasingly frustrated by out-of-state visitors as COVID-19 cases rise
Couple walking on Hawaii beach (Shutterstock)

Tourists are still flocking to Hawaii to ride out the coronavirus pandemic, and locals are increasingly frustrated.

Hundreds of travelers lured by $100 airfares are still flying halfway across the Pacific Ocean to the islands, whose governor closed beaches Saturday as the state confirmed its 580th COVID-19 case and 10th death, reported The Guardian.

“Locals are following the orders, staying home, but there are people who are clearly tourists, here by the dozens,” said Oahu resident Tryo Kane. “They’re still out here, still in groups of seven or more, still coming, and that’s a problem.”

More than 800 non-residents flew to Hawaii last week, and 35 non-residents so far have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.

Out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for two weeks after arriving, but state legislators and other locals assume the order isn't being followed.

The 34-year-old Kane, a Waimanalo neighborhood board member and community representative, said he's seen travelers at gas stations or grocery stores in tourist destinations like Kailua or Kaneohe, which each have high rates of coronavirus cases.

“People will always see this place as their playground," he said, "and in this moment, as a Native Hawaiian, this is very reflective of many historical circumstances, where people from outside of the islands have come in and caused real harm to the native population. It’s not always with direct intent to do so, but the impacts, especially on Hawaiian people, are very real."

“If you take our history," he added, "it tells us that we are not very well protected.”

Locals have called police on rental cars parked on beaches crowded with groups, and an Illinois family was attacked in March and had the tires slashed on their rental car.

Water activities are still allowed, but Waikiki Beach and others have been closed to visitors.

“People from Hawaii have always had this underlying tension with people coming in,” Mollie Bruhl, of Kalihi. “People here see themselves as a collective considering the whole rather than ‘I.' Now we feel like we’re trying to protect ourselves.”

The mayors of Honolulu, Kauai and Maui County have asked the White House to stop all non-essential travel to Hawaii, but Gov. David Ige said airlines could not discriminate between essential and non-essential passengers.

“I don’t believe it’s a situation where the majority of those who are ordered to quarantine are not obeying,” Ige said. “But we are continuing to look at improving the system as we go.”