$90 Million Appropriated for Hawai‘i Airport COVID-19 Screening

June 27, 2020, 11:19 AM HST · Updated June 28, 6:37 AM
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Kahului Airport screening checkpoint. PC: Charly Espina-Takahama.

The Hawaiʻi Legislature on Friday appropriated $90 million for airport COVID-19 screening, including thermal screening systems, web-based traveler verification applications, traveler verification rooms, swab and testing facilities, security protocols, and a service contract for ramping up testing.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz and House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke made the announcement saying the funds will be used at airports statewide to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“This investment in airport screening protocols will help us reopen tourism in the safest possible manner, screening all travelers and verifying their pre-testing information,” said Chair Sylvia Luke. “Because the US Senate has not passed the HEROES Act, we are substituting federal funding from the existing CARES Act in order to move forward with this critical priority.”

“At a recent Senate Special COVID-19 Committee meeting, Department of Health and the private labs indicated that we need to ramp up our testing capacity from 3,000 tests a day to 12,000, and possibly 15,000, tests a day,” said Chair Donovan Dela Cruz. “As the number of visitors increase, it’s important that we have enough tests for our local community and have the tests available for symptomatic passengers to help prevent the spread of the virus.”

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The systems will be installed in the five major airports: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Kahului Airport, Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hilo International Airport, and Līhuʻe Airport.

Thermal screening cameras will be installed at all the gates to screen passengers for elevated temperatures (above 100.4 degrees) as they disembark from the aircraft. A facial imaging tracking system and monitoring control rooms will be installed throughout the terminal to track a suspected passenger until they are intercepted for further screening. Total cost is $18.5 million, with an additional $17.5 million for a 10-year maintenance program.

Verification rooms will be constructed to verify arriving passenger information during their stay in the State ($5 million), and a web-based application will be developed for the departing passenger health form and arriving passenger verification information ($4 million). An additional $23 million will be appropriated for labor.

Facilities will be built to perform the swabbing and testing of suspected COVID-19 passengers for $5 million.  This swab test does not replace the pre-travel test that was announced last week as an option for incoming passengers arriving from out-of-state as an alternative to the mandatory 14-day quarantine.   The swab test at the airport is for symptomatic passengers, to offer an added layer of protection and is not administered to all passengers arriving in the state.

A total of $17 million will be available for service contracts for the maintenance of the thermal screening cameras and facial imaging tracking system, labor to operate the monitoring control and verification rooms, and health professionals to perform the swabbing and testing of passengers.

The measure being proposed will allow the state to reopen for all travel (interisland, domestic, and international), benefiting all residents, businesses, and the tourism industry, while minimizing the spread of COVID-19 at the five major airports.

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