Hawaii to let travelers who test negative for COVID to bypass quarantine starting Oct. 15
Travelers will have to take the test within 72 hours before their flight arrives in the islands. Ige said drugstore operator CVS and health care provider Kaiser Permanente will conduct the tests as part of an agreement with the state.
Ige had planned to start a pre-travel testing program Aug. 1, only to have to postpone it as COVID-19 cases spiked on the U.S. mainland and in Hawaii. A shortage of testing supplies also forced delays. Another start date for Sept. 1 was also canceled. Airlines are expected to help inform travelers of the requirement.
The quarantine began in March, meaning much of the year had been wiped out as few visitors want to be confined to their hotel or vacation rental.
The announcement comes on the heels of Gov. Ige authorizing a "resort bubble" program for Kauai.
"We understand the need to address the economic hardship facing our tourism-based community, while also preserving the safety of our residents,” Kauai Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami said in a statement. "The resort bubble program is an added tool to reopening our economy while we learn to co-exist with this virus. It’s not a replacement or the final solution, and we will continue to keep our community updated as we make progress."
Hawaii leaders are hopeful that pre-travel testing will encourage people to return to Hawaii in a way that keeps residents safe. Tourism traffic to the state has plunged more than 90% since the pandemic began, forcing hundreds of hotels to close and pushing many people out of work.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who joined the news conference via Zoom because he tested positive for the disease and is isolating at home, said the program will provide economic opportunity at a time when so many people are suffering. Upheaval from the pandemic pushed nearly one-quarter of Hawaii’s workforce into joblessness. In April, Hawaii had the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation after Nevada and Michigan.
As for interisland travel during mandatory quarantine, the state calls the program an "enhanced movement quarantine" that each county can develop to give residents and visitors the ability to travel between islands without a 14-day quarantine.
If counties opt to establish these programs, they can work with resorts or hotels for housing these travelers in question. Travelers who enroll must stay in specific geographical areas and limit their contact with people not under self-quarantine restrictions. Travelers who participate must sign waivers saying they voluntarily chose to participate, as well as allow electronic monitoring and access to their health information. All are required to pay for associated costs.
Hawaii's government also requires travelers to fill out its online "Safe Travels" application in an effort to keep its residents and visitors healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.
Travelers can fill out two forms: one for interisland travel and one for trans-Pacific travel. The new plan digitizes the process from paper and uses the same form for each traveler type.
The forms collect health and contact information to assist in public health monitoring.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY; The Associated Press