Gov. David Ige said Monday that Hawaii will be ready by Aug. 1 to implement the passenger testing program that would allow out-of-state travelers to bypass the 14-day quarantine, despite the concerns of some local residents and the rising coronavirus cases.
“This testing program is an effort to bring trans-Pacific travelers because we know that so many states have not done a terrific job of managing the virus, but those who can get a test and be negative prior to coming here at least allow us to bring a traveler, and the risk to the community is contained,” he said.
Ige was speaking on the daily program “COVID-19 Care Conversation,” produced by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and available at staradvertiser.com.
He said there are five task teams that are working on the process for testing tourists and clearing them through the airport.
“We have people looking at the logistics at the airport,” he said. “I know that if you travel, we’ve had to change the flow of the passengers exiting planes. … Definitely, we have many people who are working to make this happen.”
On Wednesday, Ige green-lighted the program that would allow passengers coming to Hawaii to skip the 14-day quarantine with approved negative coronavirus tests taken within 72 hours.
A concern brought forth during the “COVID-19 Care Conversation” was whether it’s feasible to get a test for local residents traveling out of state for the weekend and then coming back to Hawaii.
“If people are asking me whether they should be traveling, especially if you’re traveling to California — or Arizona or Texas or Florida — I would strongly encourage them not to do it.”
Ige emphasized that the mandatory 14-day quarantine will continue. The penalty for breaking quarantine is a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.
One question to Ige was what happens to travelers who had a test but didn’t get the results prior to landing.
“We’re trying to keep it simple,” he said. “Yes, we are building the network of partners who will be able to administer and is fully aware that 72 hours prior to departure, so somebody needs to take the test and get the result back before they depart. If they come here and they don’t have a negative COVID test, then they are in quarantine. That’s what will happen to them until we can get that result.”
Another question is whose responsibility it is to monitor and inform the incoming travelers if their tests have been approved or if travelers have to quarantine.
“We’re working through that, and that’s why we’re looking for partners,” he said. “We want someone who can give us a presence here in the islands so we can verify that the individual went to this test pharmacy.”
Ige added that they are working with CVS Pharmacy and have partnerships with the hotels, who have been taking in out-of-state travelers coming from the airport.
Monday, Hawaii recorded two coronavirus cases, increasing the statewide count to 900 since the start of the outbreak. Sunday saw double digits with 27 cases, including 17 associated with a funeral home.
When asked about the rising cases, Ige said, “I just want everybody to know that it really demonstrates that we have built the capacity, we have the ability to test and get the results back within 24 hours and really follow up with the contact tracing. … The 27 cases were a result of following up on a funeral service that occurred, and we were able to get the first case and followed up on all of those who attended and then identified the 17 additional persons infected. It does demonstrate that our system is working.”