Mayors’ pitch for second COVID test on arrival denied

Victorino says governor looking at alternatives

A vial holding a nasal swab is placed in a secure bag during drive-thru testing at the South Maui Community Park in June. Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Monday that Gov. David Ige has denied a proposal by Victorino and Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami to test trans-Pacific travelers two to three days after their arrival. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Neighbor Island mayors seeking a second test for trans-Pacific travelers were denied by the governor ahead of the anticipated launch of the state’s pre-travel testing plan on Oct. 15.

Mayor Michael Victorino said during his county news conference Monday afternoon that Gov. David Ige recently declined a proposal by Victorino and Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami that called for testing trans-Pacific travelers 48 to 72 hours after their arrival.

However, the governor “is still in favor of looking at some other alternatives,” Victorino said.

He declined to elaborate on alternatives, saying negotiations are ongoing.

Travel and the reopening of Hawaii to visitors has been a hot-button topic as the Aloha State continues to buckle under high unemployment rates, especially in the sectors that rely on tourism, Hawaii’s leading industry. State and county officials have been juggling safety concerns and economic woes, both of which are anticipated to continue for some time.

Last week Lt. Gov. Josh Green rolled out some details of the state’s Safe Travels program that allows trans-Pacific travelers to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure.

Victorino and Kawakami, who lead counties with lower COVID-19 cases than others as of late, have advocated for trans-Pacific travelers to quarantine after arrival while waiting for a second test.

“I’ve been adamant about that since the beginning of this trek — that when we reopen we would have post-testing for travelers coming in,” Victorino said Monday. “I still am in favor of 72-hour pretest, but when they get here between 48 and 72 hours of arrival, having them tested again.”

Green said last week that a second test would deter travel, be difficult to enforce and deplete the state’s limited testing capacity.

The lieutenant governor, who’s also a Hawaii island-based medical doctor, predicted that less than one in 1,000 people who take a test will be positive for COVID-19. If the state anticipates 8,000 travelers to Hawaii per day, that would mean eight individuals would possibly have COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the future of the state’s interisland quarantine, which requires 14 days of self-quarantine for Neighbor Island arrivals, remains unclear. The interisland quarantine was reinstated in August for arrivals to all counties, except Honolulu, as a way to curb COVID-19 spread.

Victorino said Monday he is against residents having to quarantine when traveling within Maui County, the only county to include three inhabited islands.

Maui residents should “not have to be forced to quarantine or take a test because they have to go to Molokai and come back” regardless of whether they are traveling for essential reasons, Victorino said.

When asked about plans to relax the interisland quarantine once the pre-travel testing program launches, state officials have deferred to the county mayors, saying they must reach an agreement.

On Monday, the state Department of Health reported 52 new cases of COVID-19, including 41 on Oahu, 10 on Hawaii island and one in Maui County. The department also released information on three recent Maui deaths related to COVID-19 that occurred between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15 and were reported by the DOH on Sunday. Two of the deaths were a man and a woman, each in their 60s, while the third was a woman over 80 years old. All three had underlying health conditions and were hospitalized.

Tracy Dallarda, spokeswoman for hospital operator Maui Health System, did not respond to a question Monday as to whether the three had COVID-19 prior to hospitalization.

Statewide, there have now been 157 deaths, including 129 on Oahu, 15 in Hawaii County, 12 in Maui County and one out of state.

During the county’s news conference, officials also announced that:

• The county and Maui Economic Opportunity are launching the Agriculture Grants Program that offers grants up to $25,000 to farmers (crops, livestock, poultry and products) operating on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Some qualifications include having a GET license to conduct business in Hawaii as of July 1, 2020; providing a copy of IRS Schedule F form filed for 2019; and being a county resident for at least one year prior to application. Applications are available at www.meoinc.org. For more information, contact bdcinfo@meoinc.org or call 249-2990 and ask for David Daly.

• Movie theaters, bowling alleys, ocean-related competitions (swim and surf) and commercial event operators will be allowed to reopen beginning today. Also, outdoor county courts will be open until 8 p.m.

• A county food distribution will be held starting at 10 a.m. Friday at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokai.

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


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