Gov. David Ige today signed a new emergency proclamation that officially clarifies a pre-arrivals testing program that will ease travel restrictions for some travelers when it kicks off Thursday.
The proclamation extends a mandatory 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers to Hawaii to Nov. 30. The interisland quarantine for travelers arriving in the counties of Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao (Kalaupapa) also remains in place.
However, per authority given to them in Ige’s proclamation, the Maui and Kauai mayors have decided to allow interisland travelers from Oahu to participate in the state’s pre-arrivals testing program to bypass the interisland quarantine. Hawaii island has not elected to participate at this time.
“Those going from Honolulu to Maui and Kauai will be able to get a pre-travel test 72 hours prior to departure and avoid quarantine,” Ige said.
Ige’s 14th emergency order says starting Oct. 15 travelers who, upon entry into the state, provide written confirmation from a state approved COVID-19 testing partner of a negative test result from a test administered to the traveler within 72 hours from the final leg of departure, will be exempt from the mandatory quarantine.
Ige said the multi-tiered system, including was designed to protect the health and safety of residents and travelers.
“I appreciate all the work that went into developing this comprehensive safe travel system, which we believe is the most advanced in our nation,” Ige said.
Joining Ige at the media briefing to discuss recovering Hawaii tourism were Lt. Governor Josh Green, Dr. Libby Char, director of the state Department of Health, and John De Fries, the newly hired president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
Green said Alaska is the only other state in the nation that requires pre-arrivals testing. While critics of reopening Hawaii tourism have pointed out that Alaska did experience some infection rate surges after reopening tourism, Green said there are big differences between Alaska and Hawaii, especially regarding the other COVID-19 rules and regulations that the state’s have implemented.
“The Alaska community refused to shut down their bars. The Alaska community refused to enforce social distancing, the Alaska community did not enforce any quarantine rules,” Green said. “And, also the individuals that came to Alaska that had a higher positivity rate were not travelers, but they were people who worked in the fishing industry.”
Green said tests that are currently approved in the order must be processed by laboratories that are licensed or certified by Clinical Laboratories Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of specimens for nucleic acid amplification testing approved or authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration, pursuant to an Emergency Use Authorization or other authorization for COVID-19 testing. Tests also must come from one of Hawaii’s 17 “trusted testing partners,” which are listed at hawaiicovid19.com.
Ige’s order also allows a county “to require travelers five and older to obtain a subsequent test after arrival into the state,” but it doesn’t allow the counties to require travelers to self-quarantine prior to taking a second test.
According to the order, a county that requires a subsequent tests must pay for and administer them at a county-designated site. Counties, with subsequent test requirements, must integrate the test protocol with the State’s Safe Travels program and implement it through county emergency orders, rules or proclamations.
Mayor Harry Kim today amended his Emergency Rule No. 12 so that travelers arriving on Hawaii Island from out of state who have chosen to participate in the State’s pre-test program will also be required to take a county administered COVID-19 antigen test upon arrival to Hawaii Island. The tests, which will be paid for with county CARES Act funds, will be administered at the Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole, Waimea-Kohala Airport, and Hilo International Airport.
Kim said those that test positive for COVID-19 will be required to take a subsequent PCR test immediately and will be required to self-quarantine while awaiting those results, which are expected within 36 hours.
Ige said Kauai has established a voluntary post-arrivals testing program for trans-Pacific travelers, which would be administered on day three. He said Maui also is adding a voluntary testing program.
Ige’s proclamation also gives counties the right to implement resort bubbles, which allows them to lift the self-quarantine for untested travelers who are staying at a resort that is part of the enhanced movement quarantine program. That program must “restrict participating travelers to clearly defined geographical areas and ensure limited contact with those not subject to self-quarantine.”
The order allows adjacent beaches to be part of the resort bubble “provided that members of the public are given notice of the (enhanced movement quarantine) and are not prohibited from accessing the shoreline area. “
Some would like to see Hawaii mandate more stringent entry requirements for visitors during this pandemic such as a two-test plan. However, in terms of coronavirus infection rates, the state is in a different place than it was when Ige thrice delayed the start of the pre-arrivals testing program. There were just 62 new infections and four deaths reported earlier today.
The earlier delays cost Hawaii’s tourism industry all of its normally peak summer travel season. Only 22,344 visitors flew into Hawaii in August, a nearly 98% monthly drop in arrivals that widened year-to-date losses to 69% for the first eight months of this year.
Even with the start of the pre-arrivals testing program, travel to Hawaii is not expected to return to 2019 levels anytime soon. Other restrictions continue to hurt local businesses and unemployment remains high.
Ige said he expects Hawaii will restart trans-Pacific travel with 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day and that the program would build from there.
Currently, the program only applies to U.S. visitors; however, Ige said Hawaii is exploring a pre-travel testing partnership with Japan and had a video conference planned for this afternoon.
Along with pre-travel testing, Ige said the state has arranged for up to 200 additional contract tracers to assist with any potential travel-related infections.
The state has also reached an agreement to spend $30 million in CARES Act funds to purchase additional COVID-19 tests and testing equipment, Ige said.
Ige also announced the following:
>> The addition of four new “trusted partners” in the state’s pre-travel testing program, bringing the total to 17.
>> The extension of a ban on evictions statewide through Nov. 30.
>> An extension on the expiration date of Hawaii state IDs and driver’s licenses through Nov. 30.
“All of these measures are really focused on reviving our economy and restarting travel to the islands,” Ige said.
“We must also address the food and housing needs of families who are running low on funds. we must get our schools reopen and transition from learning from home to be able to return to some in-person learning.”
Watch the briefing via the video above, or go to Gov. Ige’s Facebook page.
Star-Advertiser staff writer Jason Genegabus contributed to this report.