Hawai‘i Trans-Pacific Travel Plans Delayed to Sept. 1 Amid COVID-19 Concerns, Spikes
UPDATE: 2:34 p.m. 7.13.20
Gov. David Ige announced he is delaying the launch of the state’s pre-travel testing program by a month to Sept. 1, 2020. He also announced the extension of Hawai‘i’s 14-day quarantine on trans-Pacific travel to the end of August. Gov. Ige said he still believes in the pre-travel testing program and reports that the state has made progress. Announcements related to partners will be announced as negotiations have concluded. He agreed that the developments will make economic recovery more challenging.
Gov. Ige addressed the media regarding his plans relating to trans-Pacific travel during a press briefing that started at 2:30 p.m. on Monday.
The briefing will also include comments from state Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson on new cases; and information on modified rules for returning students to the University of Hawai‘i as outlined by UH President, David Lassner.
We asked Dr. Anderson to provide details on the recent Maui cases. He said today’s case involved a resident who had recently traveled to Oahu and had come down with symptoms within four days of return. He said many other recent neighbor island cases have been from recent travel to mainland locations where the virus is surging.
On June 24, the state announced plans to start the pre-travel COVID-19 testing program on Aug. 1, 2020. Under the program, trans-Pacific travelers would be able to get a test 72-hours prior to arrival. Those testing negative for the virus would be allowed to forgo the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine. With less than three weeks before the program is set to roll out, specifics on logistics have yet to be released.
The governor has faced mounting concerns amid reservations from county mayors. The pressure also comes as spikes in cases occur on O‘ahu; and three deaths were reported among Hawai‘i residents today. Mayor Victorino has said that spikes on the mainland have resulted in delays in testing capabilities and the amount of test kits available for Hawai‘i.
The governor made this decision in collaboration with Hawai‘i’s four county mayors. Several factors contributed to the decision to delay the pre-travel testing program. They include:
- The continental U.S. (mainland) is seeing large, uncontrolled outbreaks in some of Hawai‘i’s main visitor markets, including California. Many of these communities are increasing restrictions and rolling back reopening plans.
- Hawai‘i is seeing an increase in cases.
- The outbreaks on the mainland are affecting Hawai‘i’s testing supply, including an interruption in our supply chain from the mainland.
- Hawai‘i anticipates an uptick in cases when schools re-open in August.
“This was an extremely difficult decision to make. This delay will further hurt our economy, but as I’ve always said – we will make decisions based on the best available science and facts prioritizing the health and safety of Hawai‘i residents. Our county mayors and I agree, this delay is essential to protect our community,” said Gov. Ige.
Once it is launched, the pre-travel testing program will be an important part of the state’s multi-layered screening process to protect residents and visitors. Some new details include:
- Travelers will be exempt from the 14-day quarantine if they test negative after taking a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours in advance of travel.
- The test must be a nucleic acid amplification test or NAAT test conducted at a CLIA-certified laboratory.
- If test results are not available by the time of arrival in Hawaiʻi, the traveler will remain in quarantine until their test results are received. If the test results are negative and can be verified, the traveler will then be exempt from the quarantine.
- All travelers are subject to the pre-test requirement, including children of all ages.
- Travelers are responsible for the cost of the test.
- No commercial testing will be provided at Hawaiʻi airports.
Gov. Ige will issue a 10th supplementary emergency proclamation in the next few days.
On Friday, Mayor Victorino expressed reservations about re-opening trans-Pacific travel and rolling out the state’s pre-travel testing program on the previously announced Aug. 1 date.
“Many of us have seen surges not only on Oʻahu but in the mainland. Many of those are prime markets–say for example California. So the concern is there; there is no question in my mind. And so for most of us we are looking at a later date than Aug. 1; however, if things were to change quite substantially and quite rapidly on the other side of the coin, like we were about a month ago when we were having very few cases here in Hawaiʻi, and many of the states that we’re talking about now… they were doing well because they were shut down. They were on stay at home orders. If we see changes in that area and numbers start to decrease, we may reconsider another date.”
A separate quarantine on interisland travel was lifted on Tuesday, June 16. That applied only to air travel within the state. Anyone arriving into the state is still be subject to the 14-day quarantine as outlined in the Governor’s previous orders. Upon lifting the interisland quarantine, the state has implemented thermal screening, a new interisland travel form and a more robust contact tracing program.