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Maui’s protocols for interisland flights to mirror trans-Pacific plan

Also, county may lift quarantine for travel among Maui, Lanai, Molokai

With the trans-Pacific pre-travel testing program a couple days from takeoff, Maui County got the green light to fly with the same rules for interisland travel to the county.

Gov. David Ige approved the county’s request that calls for travelers to Maui County from other islands to produce a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours in advance of departure to bypass the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, county Managing Director Sandy Baz said at the county news conference Monday afternoon.

Maui County also got the go-ahead to lift quarantine and pre-travel testing rules for travel within the county’s three inhabited islands, Baz added.

The new travel rules take effect Thursday — the same day as the trans-Pacific protocols.

The state’s pre-travel testing program requires a nucleic acid amplification test conducted by “trusted testing partners,” which are listed on the state’s official website at hawaiicovid19.com/travel. The program has faced three delays since Aug. 1 due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases statewide, especially on Oahu, and outbreaks across the nation.

For interisland travel, the protocols differ by county, which can make things confusing for travelers. It was not clear what the rules for interisland travel are in the other counties.

Baz acknowledged the differences, saying that each county has different needs.

“We have discussed with the governor the idea that there should be some consistency between the counties but one thing to understand is each county has different criteria, different issues going on with them,” he said, noting the Big Island’s increasing new cases and Oahu’s recent reimposition of a stay-at-home order. “Yeah, it is a little bit of an inconvenience to have different rules for each of the counties but it is based on the needs of each of the counties.”

Last week, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said the county would be participating in the trans-Pacific pre-travel test program and will encourage — but not mandate — visitors get a second post-travel test.

Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami has proposed a four-tiered system based on the number of new cases. Tier One would suspend the pre-travel test program for trans-Pacific visitors; Tier Four would allow the program.

Although Kauai currently is at Tier Four, Kawakami continued on Monday to push for a second test after arrival.

A proposal for a mandated post-travel test by Kawakami and Victorino was shut down by the governor, the Maui mayor said last week.

Oahu Mayor Kirk Caldwell was satisfied with one pre-travel negative test and will allow the program for trans-Pacific travelers. Currently, interisland travelers to Oahu do not need to quarantine.

Hawaii County received approval to require trans-Pacific visitors to take an antigen test, which is faster but less reliable than other tests, shortly after arrival.

Baz said Maui County continues to work with the governor, the state attorney general and the other county mayors on details for the post-arrival test.

Later in the news conference, he said post-travel tests would not detract from the testing capacity for residents in Maui County.

“We have PCR tests available to us. It does not impact our ability to test our community,” Baz said. “We will still have adequate testing for our community.”

When the pre-travel testing program begins Thursday, it will build on the Safe Travels health screening and app, said Baz. As travelers arrive on Maui, they will use their QR codes that have COVID-19 test information, which will be scanned by screeners.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District health officer, emphasized at the news conference that residents — especially those who work in the visitor industry — boost preventative efforts ahead of the pre-travel testing plan, which is anticipated to bring in more visitors and returning residents.

Pang advocated for the “six Ws” — wearing a mask, watching for physical distancing of at least 6 feet apart, washing hands, wellness before heading out in public, wiping down and cleaning high-touch surfaces and utilizing wide-open spaces.

“A flotilla is wide and open if you look up — but if you look side to side, there are thousands of people around you. That is not wide open,” he said.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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