Former TV news reporter Angela Keen helps track down residents and visitors statewide who are not in compliance with the state’s COVID-19 quarantine rules and mask mandate through the Hawai‘i Quarantine Kapu Breakers, a volunteer, community action group on Facebook.
Angela joined the leadership team in March 2020. “The group enables me to use my journalism and reporting skills to investigate the people suspected of breaking quarantine,” says Angela. The original founder left the group last May, leaving Angela in charge.
Angela also has personal reasons for getting involved in the group. “I am a COVID-19 survivor,” says Angela. “I had the virus when the group started. My situation was serious — it took me eight weeks to recover. I felt it was my kuleana to help prevent others from contracting it.”
About 6,000 active members share tips through the group’s private Facebook page. Angela likens it to a neighborhood watch, aiding law enforcement to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We are a unique group of professionals mixed with a few ku¯ puna,” says Angela. “Many kumu and ku¯ puna in the group are my advisors and mentors — to make sure we do things pono. Many feel our efforts help the ku¯ puna and others at high risk. But most of our members work in the tourism industry.” The group has lead teams in every county and members on all islands.
Through these tips and information, she builds a digital file and sends it to the Hawai‘i attorney general’s office, where it is reviewed by the AG’s lead special investigator and his team. The quarantine breaker is usually arrested within 48 to 72 hours.
As of this writing, HQKB has helped to identify more than 74 violators.
Angela and her group also lobbied for a better statewide mask mandate. The group assists in enforcing it by holding weekend monitoring events. When they see unmasked people, they approach with a mask and a flyer explaining the mandate.
The group also gets tips on large group gatherings. “For large parities, we ask people to call the non-emergency number of their local police department. Reports on mask or distancing issues at restaurants go to the state Department of Health.”
Of those identified as kapu breakers, about 70 percent are tourists and 30 percent are locals.
Angela has currently focused on lobbying, and working with state and county leaders.