HONOLULU — Honolulu is not capable of effectively enforcing a mandatory, 14-day quarantine on visitors staying in Oahu vacation rentals during the coronavirus pandemic, an official said.
Honolulu’s Acting Director of Planning and Permitting Kathy Sokugawa told state senators her department does not have the ability to monitor activity at reported vacation rentals, Hawaii Public Radio reported Thursday.
“We definitely aren’t able to help with the self-isolation and quarantine,” said Sokugawa, whose department is responsible for enforcing the city’s short-term rental ordinance.
Vacation rentals were designated nonessential businesses and ordered by Democratic Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to cease operations because of the pandemic, although traditional hotels are permitted to operate.
Despite the prohibition, the planning and permitting department has issued more than 300 warnings to suspected vacation rental operators, Sokugawa said.
The inability to actively monitor properties suspected of being used as vacation rentals led the city to pass a bill last year outlawing advertisements of rentals without permits for less than 30 days. The law led to a substantial reduction in the number of unpermitted rentals on Oahu.
Inspectors use data collected from arriving travelers by the Hawaii Tourism Authority to identify properties listed as short-term rentals. But obtaining an address is not enough to issue a violation.
Owners of suspected vacation rental properties contacted by her department regularly dispute the allegations, Sokugawa said.
“People say, ‘That’s not me. You mailed it to the wrong address. Yeah, I own that house, but we don’t do that. My grandmother lives there,’” she said. “People lie in many different ways, so it’s always a cat and mouse game.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.