Sad: Tourist Dies In Ocean Seeking To Escape Hawaii’s Quarantine

Hawaii couldn’t legally ban people from flying there. States don’t have that legal authority. The constitution won’t allow them to do it to American travelers from other states, and individual states aren’t permitted to conduct foreign policy.

Clearly though that’s what they wanted to do. They’ve tried to push the legal envelope where they can. However they did what was indisputably in their power: a public health quarantine. Everyone arriving in Hawaii has had to self-isolate for 14 days. (Plus they were even willing to pay to get tourists to leave the state.)

One tourist just couldn’t handle it. Ten days into a fourteen day quarantine he hit the ocean, and that’s where he died. The 39 year old man, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was found by a fisherman at Diamond Head near Honolulu.

He arrived June 7 and should have stayed in quarantine until Sunday. However, he checked out of his hotel Wednesday, said Jessical Lani Rich, president of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, which helps tourists in distress.

Rich told local TV station KITV that he was 10 days into his quarantine. “You know, it’s difficult being in quarantine for a lot of people. I guess he wanted to go enjoy the ocean, and he did, but very sadly it cost him his life,” she said. Her organization reached out to his family in Oklahoma.

Hawaii’s quarantine is currently set to run through July 31, though it may be extended – most likely with options for avoiding it such as a COVID-19 test prior to arrival, or a test on landing (though testing at the required scale may be a challenge, as could getting results back in a timely manner). This incident won’t be included in Hawaii’s COVID-19 death totals.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hawaii literally has the fewest deaths per capita of any state. Unlike what we’re seeing in red states with an explosion in cases, Hawaii has taken the issue seriously. Their far better results prove that choices and good policy matter.

    The quarantine rules have been in place for months. This information was widely available, It’s sad that someone visited who was unable to comply and this led to their death.

  2. So if there would have been no quarantine he would have gone swimming and drowned sooner. Do you realize how many tourists drown in Hawaii? There are 5.7 drownings per million visitors which is by far the largest rate, at least in the US. For comparison, Florida is only .9 per million. Tons of tourists die swimming there. It wasn’t the quarantine that killed him. In fact, if he had obeyed the quarantine he would have lived longer or maybe not drowned at all. I’m sure the drowning rate is lower because the quarantine is keeping more tourists out of the unsafe waters there. It undoubtedly is saving many, many lives of native Hawaiians, sparing them from Covid which would decimate islands with highly vulnerable populations and under resourced health system.

  3. Those Hawaiian waves aren’t anything to mess with! I don’t see how the quarantine is at all related to his unfortunate death, this just seems like a cheap scare tactic. Stay in your hotel for 14 days or the coronavirus will drown you! Come on, it’s gross to talk about a person drowning like this.

    Also, Tom, why are you trying to turn this political? The Republican strongholds of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are all faring very poorly on a per capita basis.

  4. The water in Hawaii is not for the average tourist – most folks visiting Hawaii need to stick to Lagoons and beaches with man-made break walls – I grew up on the Big Island and I still remember seeing a tourist climb onto some rocks and attempt to jump into the water and he killed himself when he hit the rocks upon entering the water

  5. How is the family supposed to retrieve his body? 14 days of quarantine to do so would seem rough.

  6. @Tom K

    You embarrassingly wrong. State with liberal governments have the highest deaths per capita. New York is 1650 deaths per million. New Jersey is 1500. Connecticut is 1400. Michigan is 600. Pennsylvania is 500.

    In comparison, Florida has 142 deaths per million despite having more people than NY, an older population, and targeted lockdowns of nursing homes but more personal freedom to gauge risks and get some air. Arizona is at 183 deaths per million.

  7. When will people get it? Hawaii doesn’t want tourists coming from states with unchecked coronavirus. Get it? They don’t want you. Yet covidiots insist getting on a plane from places where the virus is rapidly spreading and then flying to hawaii and then intentionally violating the required quarantine. If the virus spreads in Hawaii their hospital system will be overwhelmed. Its not rocket science. Tired of people who think the rules don’t apply to them.

  8. Maybe he heard about front-row seats available for Saturday night’s hoo-ha back home and figured he’d swim for it…

  9. First, no one knows if he broke quarantine earlier while in the hotel that he subsequently checked out of — all we know is that he checked out of the hotel and he was later found dead, presumably his belongings were elsewhere.

    We have no idea how well the hotel monitored its guests, if they even monitored them, at all.

    You might recall that a joker from NYC was arrested after breaking his hotel quarantine — I do not recall the facts of that matter, nor do I care to look them up, but some people are caught and I am sure others are not.

    Tom K from Seattle is correct in one respect, Hawaii literally has the least amount of deaths per capita and otherwise, and it is insane the way they have been going about its restrictions.

    It is a tourism dependent economy and it is literally and figuratively destroying its economy without even testing whether a less restrictive regime would be helpful to its citizens.

    Tom K, I do not accept any of your other conclusory statements for some one who commends Hawaii’s destructive inclinations likely approves of the idiocy on display by your mayor of you city and your governor of your state.

    Pray tell, what is the average number of shootings in Seattle per day and deaths by shootings per day?? Once you give me those stats, run them up against the “admirable” job the CHOP is doing to protect the “citizens” of its entity, per capita or otherwise.

  10. Hadley, did you use the word “pray tell” in a sentence? Are you from the 1850s? 😛

  11. Even though HI is has the 14 day Quarantine it has the highest R level in the nation right now. This is a handy chart to see how states are doing in their battle to get that R number below 1.0. Note: The R value alone isn’t enough of a indicator to track the virus as the site’s proprietors themselves note in their FAQ.

  12. I dont understand how the drowning was related to covid quarantine? Would he not have been = likely to drown either way? He was not sick with covid when he went swimming was he? I dont see any causation pattern?

  13. Hawaii normally has about 1 tourist die per week in normal times, generally from drownings, outdoor sports injuries, or car accidents. So if you want to count this person’s death in the Covid count (because you assume he was only swimming because he had been quarantining?) then I think you would need to also subtract out all the lives saved which would leave you with a net negative.

  14. How is this sad? This man should be nominated for a Darwin award. You want to give up your life for his?

  15. Douglas Swalen – as the state opens up it expects more cases, and almost any growth looks significant in percentage terms off a low base.

  16. Unless this is a possible suicide, I don’t see the point of the piece. Disobeying quarantine does not expose one to any change in risk from drowning when in the ocean. If he waits four more days to go to the ocean is he safer from drowning then? Does the state direct the ocean to act vindictively against people who break quarantine? Would he make national news if he drowned after finishing quarantine? If he breaks quarantine and gets hit by a car, while out for a jog is it national news?

    Today I will be driving to a state park to go hiking. The park is open and I will social distance at all times. If I get killed in a car wreck along the way, or if a bear eats me, will everyone say, “If he had stayed home today to be safe from COVID this wouldn’t have happened”?

  17. @Jackson Henderson
    Guess Faux News hasn’t told you that NY now has the lowest infection rate and Florida the highest with Arizona catching up fast.

  18. It’s sad and disgusting to see morons hoping for and cheering on COVID deaths in states that have a (usually small) majority of residents who support the opposing political party.

    You’re an embarrassment to this country and to humankind. Something must be very wrong in your lives to have this unbridled hatrid – poor job, no money, no friends, no family/partner?

    Get some help

  19. @RobPhilip +1

    “This incident won’t be included in Hawaii’s COVID-19 death totals.”

    That’s because it doesn’t have anything to do with it. Slow news day, eh Gary?

  20. The title of your article is disingenuous, Gary. Drownings happen in Hawaii ALL THE TIME. Dangerous ocean conditions are common in Hawaii, which is why all ocean-related warning signs and rules must be followed. So many people, tourists, and locals alike, die every year because they were too complacent or simply disregarded warnings/rules.

    The ocean is a very unforgiving place. In fact, many of us in the islands that spend significant time in and around the ocean follow a singular rule – never turn your back to the ocean. Meaning, always be aware of what’s going on around you.

    While tragic, this man’s death had nothing to do with the quarantine. In fact, the area he was recovered in, Manalua Bay, is infamous for its drowning fatalities. Yes, most of the bay is calm, but if you’re jumping in from the area called China Walls or Spitting Caves, you can get into trouble REAL QUICK.

    Plus, many quarantine violators currently in the islands engage in prohibited activities anyway. This ranges from hiking in the geologically unstable Sacred Falls area on Oahu, harassing the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal, or even swimming in areas that are known to be dangerous.

  21. Why did you change your headline to “escape” the quarantine when the source you link to says he was “defying” the quarantine?

    It is indeed sad that he passed, but he should’ve been in his room. The quarantine measures are put in place to save lives, and they have worked. He is a tourist going to the islands and flaunting the public health laws. Again, it’s sad that he died, but he wasn’t “escaping” anything; he was “defying” the rules.

  22. @JD, I agree the choice of words matter here. Often, it’s what lead to conflicts (like the heated exchange of words in this thread). There’s no need to make any inferences nor accusations.

    Close this discussion and let everybody come to their own conclusion as long as you provide all the facts you have gathered.

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