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Many Maui travelers using state’s new pre-travel testing program

Kahului Airport expecting about 700 trans-Pacific arrivals today

Arriving passengers stand in line while waiting to be screened Thursday at Kahului Airport. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — Most of the passengers aboard the first trans-Pacific flight to Kahului Airport since the state’s pre-travel testing program began took advantage of the option to bypass Hawaii’s two-week quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test.

However, only 75 percent of them had proof of tests from Hawaii-approved testing partners, airport officials said.

A United Airlines flight from Los Angeles with 136 passengers and six crew members was the first of about 10 trans-Pacific flights to arrive Thursday, according to Maui Airports District Manager Marvin Moniz.

About 40 United passengers had proof of negative, FDA-approved COVID-19 nucleic acid amplification test done at Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified labs. However, the labs are not among Hawaii’s 17 “trusted testing partners” listed on its www.hawaiicovid19.com website.

Another five or so people said they were not participating in the state’s pre-travel testing program and were given paperwork mandating a 14-day self-quarantine, said head screener Denise Texeira, airport business services supervisor.

Citing long turnaround times for trusted partners and trusted partners that were not yet ready to receive travelers, people opted to obtain a test from labs not yet approved by the state, Moniz said.

Moniz said the state attorney general may be exempting from quarantine the passengers with proof of negative COVID-19 tests. Their data was being processed by on-site medical personnel.

Hawaii’s thrice-delayed program allows trans-Pacific travelers who produce within 72 hours of their final leg a negative COVID-19 test to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Originally slated to begin Aug. 1 as a way to restart tourism, the program was pushed back three times due to COVID-19 surges on Oahu and on the Mainland.

The program has been a focus of debate among community members, government leaders and tourism industry officials. Supporters point to the state’s staggering unemployment rate, business closures and economic woes. Opponents say it is too early to reopen the state and travel will spark further COVID-19 spread.

In all, Kahului Airport officials are expecting about 700 incoming trans-Pacific passengers today.

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