The state is lifting the 14-day interisland travel quarantine for Hawaii residents today, but trans-Pacific travelers won’t likely be welcomed back until August amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Certainly … the goal (to bring in out-of-state visitors) is ASAP, but realistic it would be August,” Gov. David Ige said during the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s COVID-19 Care Conversation. “Certainly, we are going to allow it when we feel that it’s safe for our community. The general quarantine will probably be the last thing lifted, because we still see virus outbreaks.”
West Coast states including Oregon, California, Arizona and Nevada — which bring the bulk of tourists to Hawaii — are seeing record highs, he said.
“Really, it’s about whether the infection rate in their communities would pose a risk to … the islands.”
State officials are still working out the details of a plan to test visitors 72 hours before they jump on a plane to Hawaii. Tourists would need a validated certificate with a negative test result to enter the state. Ige said he is in talks with national drugstores and pharmacies to see whether they would be willing to administer COVID-19 tests without a doctor’s order or prescription for people wanting to come to the islands.
“We want to encourage testing prior to getting on a plane,” he said. “We want to make sure if we allow pre-testing prior to arrival in Hawaii to avoid the quarantine that they would be able to get it readily in those communities that are most important to us.”
Meanwhile, Ige is also trying to work out a deal for travelers from Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Australia, which have lower numbers of COVID-19 cases, to safely return to the islands.
“One of the challenges for us here in the islands is we’re part of the U.S., and they see the continuing high virus counts in the United States; and so for many countries, they’ve just shut down travel from the United States,” he said. “So we’re working to say Hawaii’s different. All of these efforts are really to accelerate bringing visitors here ahead of being able to lift the mandatory quarantine.”
While the airlines can ramp up flights within two weeks, Hawaii hotels need four to six weeks to reopen ahead of large numbers of out-of-state visitors, he said.
Ige advised interisland travelers to arrive at the airport early to have their temperatures checked, and to complete health forms ahead of time at health .hawaii.gov/travel.
Hawaii on Monday recorded eight new coronavirus cases — all adults on Oahu — raising the statewide total infections since the start of the outbreak to 736.
State Health Director Bruce Anderson said at Ige’s daily COVID-19 briefing that a patient tested positive for the new coronavirus at Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center after a staff member at the Makiki nursing home tested positive last week — the fourth case of the virus at a long-term care facility this month.
As of Monday, 89 infections in Hawaii are active cases, with 630 patients now considered recovered since the start of the outbreak in February. The state’s COVID-19 death toll remains unchanged at 17.
Of the more than 62,028 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories, about 1.2% have been positive.
Hawaii has seen a small upsurge in cases in June after a relatively mild May. The Health Department reported 15 new cases Friday and 17 on Saturday — the first time the state’s daily count was in double digits since mid-April.