BREAKING: Pre-Travel COVID-19 Testing Program for Trans-Pacific Visitors Delayed to Oct. 1 at the Earliest

August 18, 2020, 2:57 PM HST · Updated August 18, 5:37 PM
Wendy Osher · 156 Comments
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News Conference Aug. 18, 2020

August 18, 2020 News Conference: Update on COVID-19

Posted by Governor David Ige on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

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Pre-Travel COVID-19 Testing Program for Trans-Pacific Visitors Delayed to Oct. 1 at the Earliest

Governor David Ige this afternoon announced a delay in the start of the state’s pre-travel COVID-19 testing program to Oct. 1, 2020.

This pushes the perviously announced Sept. 1 date to October 1, 2020 at the earliest.  Gov. Ige said he will continue to monitor key markets on the mainland and here in Hawaiʻi to determine an appropriate start date.

“We will be making that announcement in time so that the hospitality industry would have the time they need to staff up and and begin to support the pre-travel testing program,” said Gov. Ige.

GeoFencing / Travel Bubbles:

We asked Gov. Ige about the idea of travel bubbles and geofencing, which have surfaced for discussion on Maui. Gov. Ige said the state is looking at and exploring all options to safely bring trans-Pacific travelers to the island.

“I’ve been working with the mayors in all of the counties to identify additional ways that we can bring travelers back more quickly and the whole notion of geofencing on properties, we are discussing in all of the counties,” said Gov. Ige. “It would require the appropriate kind of facilities. We would want to make sure that the properties will take responsibility of the quarantine of the individuals who would be arriving and staying on their property. That they would have the ability to manage the visitors and keep them separated from the resident populations, so we would minimize any opportunity for spreading the virus. And then they would be responsible if the traveler should begin to experience symptoms that they would have access to health care; and eventually if they ended up being COVID positive, that then they would go into isolation within the properties that choose to participate,” said Gov. Ige.

“We are working with the industry and the county governments to see if there are ways that we can safely bring back trans-Pacific travelers and keep our communities healthy and safe,” said Gov. Ige.

Act Now Honolulu – No Social Gatherings

He also joined Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in implementing additional restrictions on the island of Oʻahu where cases have consistently been in the triple digits.

Mayor Caldwell called the latest phase “Act Now Honolulu – No Social Gatherings.” This means no parties larger than five individuals coming together on Oʻahu. This is in effect starting at midnight on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 and will run for 28 days or two incubation periods.

Governor Ige reiterated that the neighbor islands continue in the “Act With Care” phase in their reopening plans.  The new Honolulu restrictions apply specifically to Oʻahu.

Mayor Caldwell said at the news briefing that county and state leaders discussed the modified restrictions for O‘ahu over the past five days, trying to decide whether to “use a scalpel or a hammer.” “We’ve chosen a scalpel,” Caldwell said. Key changes from the previous restrictions, going into effect at midnight tomorrow (Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020) include:

  • No indoor or outdoor gatherings for the next 28 days
  • No parties larger than 5 people
  • Face coverings required at all shopping malls
  • Face coverings required at all in-person spiritual services, no singing, no wind instruments
  • No groups larger than 5 at restaurants (down from 10)
  • Outdoor attractions, recreational and commercial boating-no groups larger than 5
  • No social gatherings are permitted in businesses
  • Businesses encouraged to reduce employee numbers on-site by encouraging tele-commuting or staggered work schedules.
  • No groups larger than 5 at museums and movie theatres

*O‘ahu bars, beaches, parks and trails remained closed.

Governor Ige, Mayor Caldwell, and Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson all say they feel these modified restrictions will lead to a steady decline in the number of cases on O‘ahu over the next few weeks.

An O‘ahu man, 40-59 years-old, with underlying health conditions is the 41st COVID-19 death since the start of the pandemic. DOH extended its sympathies to the family and friends of the latest individual who passed. DOH reported 134 new positive cases on Tuesday. This is the second lowest daily case count since August 2 and DOH cautions, “this is only one day and may not be a trend.”

Health Director Discusses His Recent Absence

State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson discussed media reports about his absence at today’s news briefing. He said, “I know many of you have been asking about the brief rest break I took last week for a few days. Let me explain that I needed some time to rest and rejuvenate, and I appreciate the Governor granting me that brief time to rest, since we have all been at this non-stop since the pandemic began. Let me reassure you that I am at work, directing the Department of Health’s response and Dr. Sarah Park is at work continuing to guide our disease outbreak control measures. We all need a break periodically to keep working at our optimum level and to be effective.”

Anderson added that while the high number of cases is concerning, Hawai‘i is seeing a leveling or plateauing of the numbers and they do not appear to be rising or increasing at this time. He calls this a hopeful development but reminded everyone that case numbers can increase quickly.

He said, “When we all work together to reduce the spread of the virus, we will see a decrease in the number of new positive cases. City and County of Honolulu restrictions and enhanced enforcement will also help, and it may be a few weeks before we see the results of those actions.”

Anderson said, “Together, we can bring the numbers down by not gathering and avoiding close contact with others. Businesses who control their customer interaction will help to control the spread… Now workplaces and office spaces must also support their employees in keeping their guard up especially during rest times, breaks and socializing.”

DOH officials say the department continues to work with the counties to conduct outreach and other measures to support those who are affected at a higher rate by COVID-19 in Hawai‘i such as Pacific Islanders and large families who live in crowded conditions.

*The press briefing is currently underway.  Stay with us for further updates.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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