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Utah couple stranded in Hawaii over COVID-19 confusion

Posted at 5:26 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 23:51:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY — One St. George family's dream vacation to Hawaii has turned into a nightmare after confusion with their COVID-19 tests has them stuck in Maui and unable to return home.

"This is on our dime," said Sarah Kerr. "Nobody cares if I have to stay until the end of the month, and they are in no hurry to help us."

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Sarah, her husband Charles and two of their children arrived in Hawaii on March 5.

"We were supposed to leave the 11th and we are still here," Sarah said.

The day before the Kerr's left to Hawaii, Charles received a COVID-19 test, which is required for entry into the state.

"Our results came, and my two kids were negative, and I was positive," Charles said. "And I was like 'wait a minute this makes no sense.'"

Charles, a counselor at Dixie High School, recovered from the coronavirus in December, and received his second dose of the vaccine in late February. He returned to Las Vegas — where he received his first test — and took another test which confirmed he did not have the virus.

"I uploaded that test to the Safe Hawaii travel website, they cleared me, like, instantly," he said. "They gave me a wristband to get on the plane and we were off to Maui."

On their second day in Hawaii, the couple got a phone call from the Utah Department of Health asking about the positive test result.

"So, I explained the whole situation, went through it with them, she's like, 'Oh yeah no big deal, have a great trip,'" Charles said.

Thinking the worst was behind them, the Kerr's enjoyed their vacation and put the frustrating in the past — so they thought. The day before they were set to return home, Sarah got a phone call, this time from the Hawaiian health department.

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"She was telling me if you don't cancel your flights within the hour we're going to put you on the CDC Do Not Fly list," Sarah said.

The Kerr's consulted UDOH and Charles received a letter clearing him to fly. He was also instructed to upload his vaccination record. After a back and forth between the two states' health departments, the family was told they could return home. That was on March 11.

"We go to the airport to print our boarding pass and they come back and tell us that Charlie's on the CDC do not board list, but the kids and I can fly home," Sarah said.

After a few more minutes, Sarah was also told she was added to the do not board list.

"Mine says I'm done the 15th, but hers says the 25th of March," Charles said. "She's never even had a positive test and they are going to keep her until the 25th?"

Their children were allowed to fly back to Utah, but were stopped and searched by security when they landed. Sarah said the experience traumatized their daughter.

Charles and Sarah were lucky enough to connect with another couple from St. George who allowed them to stay at their condo in Hawaii until things get sorted out.

"I think the most frustrating thing is when we talk to someone from the health department, or whatever, they're like, 'Oh, this is crazy, this shouldn't be happening,' but it is," Charles said.

The Kerr's reached out to congressman Chris Stewart's office, as well as senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney whose offices are looking into the case and working to get them home.

On Monday, Sarah finally heard back from a UDOH representative who said Charles was removed from the do not board list and was cleared to fly home. Sarah, on the other hand, will have to remain in Hawaii until March 25. She is hoping the process will be expedited so she can return to her children and normal life.

"We're missing work at home, we're canceling things, scrambling to take care of things at home," she added.

UDOH told FOX 13 they could not comment on the issue due to privacy concerns and said to contact the CDCs Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. The CDC has not yet responded to FOX 13s request for comment.