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College students coming to Hawaii may qualify for modified quarantine

  • JAMM AQUINO / FEB. 7
                                People walk the campus at the University of Hawaii Manoa on Feb. 7 in Manoa.

    JAMM AQUINO / FEB. 7

    People walk the campus at the University of Hawaii Manoa on Feb. 7 in Manoa.

Students traveling to Hawaii to attend college next month may qualify for a modified quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 and meet other health requirements, officials announced today.

The special arrangement will apply to students registered to study at most University of Hawaii campuses as well as at private institutions such as Hawaii Pacific University, Chaminade University and Brigham Young University – Hawaii.

Earlier today, Gov. David Ige postponed from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1 the start of a pre-travel testing program for people arriving in the state. He cited major coronavirus outbreaks on the U.S. mainland as well as temporary disruptions in the testing supply chain as demand grows there.

As a result, visitors and residents landing in Hawaii will continue to be subject to the strict quarantine that confines them to their residence for 14 days. College students, however, will have a chance to take part in university activities as part of a modified quarantine as long as they test negative for the virus and meet other health requirements.

“The notion is that a student with a negative test instead of being in a full lockdown quarantine for 14 days would be in a modified bubble quarantine,” UH President David Lassner said at a news conference with the governor. “With that negative test, they will be allow to attend university activities only.

”Other than that they would remain at in their place of residence,” he said. “We would ensure that they are fed.”

Universities had hoped that the pre-travel testing program would help bring students back to the islands in August. But they already had been working on alternate plans for any students who might not have been able to get tests before leaving their homes.

Under the new arrangement, students who arrive in the islands to attend college will go straight into quarantine at their residence. If they test negative for the coronavirus, they will be able to take part activities at only at their college so long as they meet other health requirements.

Those include mandatory daily health checks for symptoms such as fever, loss of taste or smell, as difficulty breathing, as well as inquiries about possible contact with anyone who has been diagnosed.

“The modified bubble will last for a full 14 days,” Lassner said. “They would be in full lockdown until they have a negative test, at which time the remainder of the 14 days will be in a modified bubble program.”

College officials will keep tabs on their students to ensure they comply with state and county regulations and that they play it safe.

“We have a much closer relationship with them than typical visitors to Hawaii who arrive and pretty much go off on their own,” Lassner said. “All of the colleges and universities have committed to monitoring our students and engaging in relationships to ensure that they are safe and that others around them… will also be safe.”

The modified quarantine option will apply initially only to college students on the islands of Oahu and Kauai because it has the support of the mayors of Honolulu and Kauai counties. Students attending college in Maui and Hawaii counties are still be subject to the regular quarantine at this point.

Lassner said more details about the program should be forthcoming later this week.

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