BREAKING: Gov. Ige: Hawai‘i to Implement Pre-Travel Testing Option on Aug. 1 as Alternative to Quarantine
By Wendy Osher
Governor David Ige today announced that as of Aug. 1, the state will implement a pre-travel testing option for travelers to Hawaiʻi as an alternative to the 14-day travel quarantine.
Joining Gov. Ige is Lt. Governor Josh Green, Senate President Ron Kouchi, Speaker of the House Scott Saiki, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and Dr. Bruce Anderson, director of the state Department of Health. All were instrumental in developing the plan.
It’s been almost 13 weeks since the state instituted the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers entering the state of Hawaiʻi. “It’s been one of the most effective measures in helping us control the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Ige. “We’ve been working diligently to develop a multi-layered testing and screening process that would allow us to invite travelers back to the islands.”
“We are working on an alternative to the 14-day mandatory quarantine that would allow a safe and healthy way for travelers to return to the islands. Today I’m announcing that beginning Aug. 1, we will implement a pre-travel testing program for travelers to Hawaiʻi as an alternative to the 14-day mandatory quarantine,” said Gov. Ige. “Beginning Aug. 1, travelers who have a valid negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving will not be subject to the 14-day mandatory quarantine. The quarantine will remain in place for those who chose to not get a pre-travel test,” he said.
Out-of-state travelers arriving in Hawai‘i must get a PCR test prior to arrival from any testing location approved by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health. Evidence of a negative test result must be provided upon arrival in Hawai‘i. Without this, passengers arriving from out-of-state will be subject to the 14-day quarantine. No testing will be provided upon arrival at the airport.
DOH is still in the process of developing this program but anticipates requiring an FDA-approved PCR test from a CLIA certified laboratory. Travelers will be required to provide printed or emailed pre-test certification as evidence of a negative test result. Travelers will be responsible for the cost of the pre-travel test.
Travelers who receive a valid negative PCR diagnostic test, 72 hours prior to their trip to Hawai‘i, will not be subject to the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
“The whole notion of arriving without taking the test–and getting testing upon arrival–just doesn’t work for us here in the state of Hawai‘i. Clearly, it would be taking testing capacity away from our community,” said Gov. Ige, and instead focusing it on visitor arrivals here. He continued saying, “The volume of visitors that we get in Hawai‘i is significantly greater (about 10 times) than the amount of visitors in the state of Alaska,” which has already implemented a pre-testing program. “And clearly that would put an undue burden on the local testing capacity here,” he said.
Gov. Ige said the health of the community continues to be his primary focus and priority. “This multi-layered screening process allows travelers to return and allows us to continue to protect the health and safety of our community. Temperature checks and screening will continue. Anyone with a temperature of over 100.4 degrees or if they have been experiencing other symptoms, will have to go through a secondary screening process upon arrival at the airport with trained health care staff. They will also at that time be offered a COVID-19 test to further evaluate their symptoms. Travelers will be required to fill out the state of Hawaiʻi health form which will be verified upon arrival,” said Gov. Ige.
State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson commented, “Lifting the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travel will require an intensive airport screening process, increased contact tracing and monitoring of cases, and careful tracking of the state’s progress in controlling and containing the coronavirus. This is a huge undertaking by the state and a tremendous commitment from public health as we embark on these new and untested initiatives and face many unknowns. It is definitely a new normal and we have much to learn as we lift restrictions and rebuild our economy while safeguarding the health of our people.”
The state is still exploring travel corridors or bubbles between destinations with similar infection loads to that of Hawaiʻi. Gov. Ige said, “We continue to have discussions with Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia in establishing travel bubbles. Those are government to government negotiations to begin to establish those travel bubbles.”
“I just would want to note that one of the challenges for us is the fact that we are part of the US, and the United States, certainly the virus continues to increase, virtually uncontrolled in many of the states. So getting a country to treat Hawaiʻi separate from the rest of the other states is certainly a step that we have to take. We’ve initiated discussions with the State Department here in the US as well as the governments that I talked about to begin to establish the travel bubbles, so that we can bring more visitors to the islands,” said Gov. Ige.
Speaker of the House Scott Saiki said that on Friday, the state legislature is poised to approve legislation via Senate Bill 126 that will appropriate $90 million for health and safety protocols at the state airports. “These funds will be used to provide a thermal screening program at the airports as well as a web based traveler application system, screening and testing facilities and supplies for our airport officials,” said Saiki. “We know that there is some trepidation on the part of residents as we begin to reopen travel, but we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of all of our residents as we begin to reopen the airports.”
Earlier today, Mayor Victorino said the “definitive timeline” would be announced.
Mayor Victorino said he supports the reopening with testing, policies and procedures in place, highlighting Hawai‘i as a safe destination for travelers.
“People who are healthy want to come to a healthy place–so let’s keep it the way… You the people have the opportunity to make the difference. We can reopen our economy, diversify (as many of us are discussing right now), but most importantly, we can make Maui and Hawai‘i nō ka ‘oi,” said Mayor Victorino during the afternoon press briefing.
County of Maui officials say the governor’s announcement gives the visitor industry and businesses time to implement proper health and safety measures. The county also has access to better virus information. During a press conference this afternoon, Managing Director Sandy Baz said, “We understand that the virus is being transmitted before people are symptomatic, with 60-80% of transmission happening at a pre-symptomatic state, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.”
Baz further noted that the primary transmission for eh virus is airborne, highlighting the importance of wearing a mask when possible.
In earlier discussion, the Mayor had suggested a second test upon arrival to effectively increase the likelihood of catching individuals who may have developed COVID while in transit or upon arrival. Baz said he believes this is something that the Mayor will continue to advocate for.
“The idea of having people test negative prior to travel is incredibly important to make sure they’re not positive on the flight when they’re coming over. But when they come here, there’s still a chance that they were either asymptomatic or caught it maybe at the airport or on the airplane from somebody else. So we want to make sure that they have the ability to get tested here, and if they have it, to not spread it around our community,” said Baz.
*Video above courtesy Office of Governor Ige / Facebook.