Post-travel testing options are permitted by state
Ige allows second test by counties, but they must cover the costs
Maui County officials Tuesday afternoon branded their pre- and post-travel testing programs as “Arrive Healthy, Stay Healthy and Return Home Healthy” as the state prepares for an influx of travelers beginning Thursday.
Trans-Pacific travelers will be able to avoid a 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test from “trusted testing partners” 72 hours before their flights.
All counties will be participating in the program. However, Gov. David Ige said he is allowing counties to offer or require an additional COVID-19 test after arrival for added precaution.
“We are making the test available for those who are traveling; it could be that someone might become symptomatic,” Ige said Tuesday during a state news conference. “We are working with our hospitality industry partners, and they are looking at different ways that they can encourage people to take a second test.
“We are aware that if we are able to do a second and subsequent test, it does help us to identify anyone who might be ill.”
The bill for the second test will be covered by the county — and not the traveler — Ige’s proclamation said.
Also Thursday, interisland flyers now have the option to bypass quarantine when traveling to Kauai and Maui counties if they produce a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours in advance of departure. A 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving in Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao counties is still mandatory if not participating in the pre-travel testing program.
There is no quarantine for interisland flyers to Oahu.
Those who have a connecting flight through Oahu and arriving in Maui County the same day will not need to retest, said Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino at a news conference Tuesday.
The quarantine for travel within Maui County has been lifted as well, Victorino said. He said the primary reason for lifting the quarantine between the islands of Maui County was to allow more movement for medical reasons or essential visits, such as residents coming to Maui from Lanai or Molokai to see a doctor.
“Inter-county travel is an essential part in staying connected with family and friends for conducting business,” Ige said.
The primary reason for varying test and travel rules between the counties involved each county’s varying needs and COVID-19 situation, he added.
Maui and Kauai counties will offer a second, voluntary test upon arrival at no cost for those who want another layer of ease and safety.
Hawaii island will require an antigen test for all arriving trans-Pacific travelers who are participating in the pre-travel testing program, free of charge. Honolulu still is exploring post-travel testing, Ige said.
In Maui County, travelers who take the second voluntary test will receive a “mahalo card” and be able to take advantage of kamaaina discount offers, Managing Director Sandy Baz said. On-site testing locations and medical providers for the subsequent test are being finalized.
“We are going to see how that works,” Victorino said. “I believe a lot of responsible visitors will do it.”
“They may very well want to have that free test four days after,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said. “It’s good, positive public health decisions that people will make for themselves and their families.”
Libby Char, the new director of the state Department of Health, said Tuesday that a second test must be added to the Safe Travels program when “capacity and logistics allow for this.”
“Particularly, when we can optimize the window between pre- and post-travel tests,” Char said. “The Department of Health is committed to increasing test capacity for our residents first and then for our travelers.”
For the first two to four weeks of the program, Ige anticipates that up to 3,000 passengers will be arriving in the state and with totals slowly increasing from there, based on current reservations.
There are now 17 “trusted partners” where people can receive an approved pre-travel COVID-19 test with the addition of four more participating locations — Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Bartell Drugs and the Port of Oakland.
Travelers, 5 years and older, who do not want to be subject to the 14-day mandatory quarantine, must take an approved COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to departure from the final leg of travel.
If results are not in from one of the trusted testing sites by the time a passenger lands, they must be quarantined until they receive their negative COVID-19 test. If the result comes back positive after the passenger already has arrived, they must quarantine. If the result comes back negative prior to arrival, quarantine is not required.
Negative test results may be uploaded to the Safe Travels Digital Platform at travel.hawaii.gov/#/, and all travelers must also complete the state’s mandatory travel and health form.
“It’s meant to be very straightforward,” Green said. “We know how people have struggled, and what we don’t want to have is a surge in cases. We will be mindful every single day that our case counts remain adequately low and that our hospital capacities are good.”
The pre-travel testing program will remain until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, Green said.
The state will be conducting strategic surveillance for up to 10 percent of all arriving passengers across all the islands for the next 60 days, he said. This program will offer those travelers, who have already gone through the pre-travel testing program, a second test four days after arrival. The data is meant to show that the pre-travel testing program is working to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
A perfect “reopening scenario” does not exist, Hawaii Tourism Authority President John de Fries said, noting that furloughed employees are excited to return to work but certain businesses and hotels will remain closed by choice.
“However, we are reassured that there will be enough of an inventory to be able to deal with the traffic that’s anticipated between Oct. 15 and the holiday season,” said de Fries. “Clearly, there’s a lot of excitement within the industry because the anticipation has been building for a while, but I will also add that there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety.
“Fear of the unknown, people returning to a job that is not exactly the same job they left back in March.”
Ige also announced Tuesday that the state continues to collaborate with Japan on a pre-travel testing program to allow for international travelers, with more details to come.
In other developments, up to 200 more contact tracers have been added to the state Department of Health to help with the opening of interisland and trans-Pacific travel.
A total of $30 million in federal CARES Act funds will be used to purchase additional tests and testing equipment “to manage the virus within our community as we resume economic activity and school reopenings,” Ige said.
“Every two, three hours we’re checking our numbers, we’re checking hospitalizations, we’re checking case counts, but we don’t want to come to this from a place of free,” Green said. “We believe that we can be safe if we are smart– we test smart, we wear masks smart, we open smart, we will do better than any other state.”
For more information about the pre-travel testing program for trans-Pacific travel to Hawaii, visit hawaiicovid19.com or call (800) GOHAWAII.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at email@example.com.