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Friday’s Hawaii visitor count dropped, but more quarantine rule breakers were caught

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Incoming visitors to Hawaii on Friday dipped from Thursday’s peak, which was the highest count of the past 57 days.

Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today that 248 visitors arrived in Hawaii on Friday.

That’s down from the 363 visitors that came on Thursday. However, it’s still cause for concern by some lawmakers and community members who question why any visitor would come to Hawaii if they intended to obey a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.

A quarantine for out-of-state passengers has been in place since March 26 and was extended to interisland flights on April 1. Currently, the quarantines aren’t set to expire until June 30.

The state issued a warning that visitors and residents should keep up their guard over the Memorial Day weekend. Many of the state’s beaches, parks, trails and other outside spaces are now open. But health officials and state leaders are urging those who visit them to maintain social distancing, wear masks while around others, and continue to wash their hands frequently.

Visitors made up 27% of Friday’s 924 total incoming passengers.

As many as 77%, or 185, of the incoming visitors said they came at least in part to visit friends or family. About 14%, or 33 visitors, said they were coming to Hawaii for business, while 10%, or 24 visitors, gave vacation as one of their reasons for traveling.

The count also included 296 returning residents, 142 airline crew members, 46 military personnel, 84 people relocating to Hawaii and 88 transit passengers who were catching planes to other locations. As many as 16 trans-Pacific flights arrived on Friday.

While 20 people who arrived had been granted an exemption to the quarantine, state and local governments are on the look out for emergency order rule breakers, who are subject to a misdemeanor charge that carries the possibility of up to a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.

From April 6 through Friday evening, the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii has used HTA’s COVID-19 Flight Assistance Program to help return 54 incoming passengers to their homes after they were caught failing to comply with the emergency directive.

VASH sent Naomi Hall, a 20-year-old from Henderson, Texas home Friday night. Jessica Lani Rich, VASH president and CEO, said Hall arrived in Hawaii on Thursday with no money and without a place to complete her quarantine. Rich said Hall was given the choice to go back home or go to jail and initially chose jail, but later changed her mind.

“She didn’t believe that she would get arrested. She spent the night in jail. After she was charged, I was contacted by the Attorney General’s Office to help her get back home,” Rich said. “In this case it was really good that we caught her. It’s dangerous for a 20-year-old out on the streets without money or plans.”

Rich said she fears the Memorial Day weekend will bring additional visitors, “who shouldn’t be coming to Hawaii now.”

“We still don’t know why we are getting so many visitors when there’s been a lot of publicity not to come,” Rich said. “However, most of the visitors that I’m seeing right now aren’t our regular visitors who are responsible, caring and considerate. The people who are coming now generally don’t care and their actions show it.”

Rich said her count also included Ashley Ruth Degraaf, 31, a Colorado woman who broke the quarantine on Maui.

Police allege Degraaf, upon arrival Friday from Colorado, said she would be staying at a hostel, but police were later told that she immediately canceled her reservations.

Rich said locals get angry when they’ve been abiding by emergency rules and see visitors flouting requirements, especially those that are posting evidence of their disregard on social media.

Social media posts lead to the arrests of Artyon Zhiryada, a 20-year-old from Happy Valley, Ore., and Dan Vlasenko, a 19-year-old from Vancouver, Wash., as they were leaving a condominium on Lewers Street.

Both arrived in Honolulu on May 16 and indicated they were staying at a friend’s condominium, according to the news release. They allegedly immediately broke the quarantine rule and “showed off their escapades by posting their adventures on social media sites as they traveled to various locations around Honolulu.”

Zhiryada also faces an additional charge of cruelty to animals for allegedly posting a video showing himself shooting a feral chicken with a spear gun in a Waikiki parking lot.

Investigators booked and charged both men for violating the 14-day quarantine mandate. Zhiryada’s bail was set at $4,500 and Vlasenko’s bail was set at $4,000. They were unable to post bail at this time.

Attorney General Clare Connors thanked the public for their assistance in reporting the social media postings to her office.

“Our special agents have arrested 15 quarantine violators in recent weeks and county police departments have arrested additional suspects,” Connors said in a statement. “Once again, we must warn residents who return, and visitors who come to Hawaii, that they will face consequences for violating our COVID-19 emergency rules. Please do the right thing and if you cannot abide by the 14-day quarantine, postpone your trip to the Aloha State until the quarantine ends, for your own safety and the safety of everyone else.”

Misty Lynn Beutler, a 51-year-old Moorpark, Calif. resident, also was arrested Friday at her son’s Hawaii Kai condominium building for allegedly violating the state’s passenger quarantine. Bail has been set at $2,000.

Anyone wishing to report violations can call 911 and ask for police or call the Department of the Attorney General at 586-1240 during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday).