DOJ backs legal challenge to Hawaii travel quarantine requirement

The Justice Department will back a lawsuit challenging the state of Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine for out-of-state travelers.

“This case raises issues of national public importance regarding the interplay between the government’s compelling interest in protecting the public and citizens’ constitutional rights,” the Justice Department said in a Tuesday “statement of interest,” The Associated Press reported.

Nevada and California residents who own property in Hawaii filed the lawsuit, arguing they should be allowed to visit family and maintain their properties.

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Hawaii imposed the quarantine requirement in March, with penalties of up to a year in jail and $5,000 in fines for those who leave quarantine for anything other than a medical emergency.

“To be clear, the United States appreciates that Hawaii, unlike many other States, is generally reached by airplane, which raises particular public-health concerns,” the Justice Department’s statement said, according to the AP. “But that alone cannot end the analysis, especially as the Governor does not subject those who travel by air between islands (as opposed to between States) to the self-quarantine mandate.”

Kenji Price, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that state-level protections during the pandemic must adhere to constitutional parameters “such as the right of Hawaii residents and persons who hail from other states to travel freely within this great country,” according to the AP.

Travelers to Alaska, by contrast, have alternatives to quarantine, with the option to be tested 72 hours before leaving for Alaska and present negative results, but must avoid interactions wherever possible until they get a second test between 7 to 14 das of arriving in the state.

Travelers who have tested positive, meanwhile, do not require a test or quarantine but must produce a doctor’s note certifying they have recovered and do not have symptoms.

“Although the Governor has indicated his intention to adopt a similar plan, he has not done so yet,” the Justice Department said, according to the AP.