Gov. David Ige said twice as many travelers as the state anticipated have come to Hawaii since the re-opening of transpacific travel last Thursday. On day one alone, roughly 10,000 visitors arrived.
Speaking on today’s “Spotlight Hawaii” show, the governor said he expects the flow of arrivals to level out, and that overall the program is going well with between 80-85% of travelers choosing to get a COVID-19 tested prior to arrival.
“That participation rate was significantly higher than we had anticipated,” Ige said.
Those who do not have a valid test will have to quarantine for 14 days, but Ige acknowledged that enforcement varies greatly island by island.
“Now we do have this digital platform and we can keep track of the numbers here who are subject to quarantine. In development last week when I looked at that website, I think Kauai had a total of 40 people who would be subject to the quarantine at that point in time. Oahu had 10,000 people. So clearly the order of magnitude is different,” he said.
“The challenge here on Oahu is greater than in any other county across the state.”
Kauai and Maui County have agreed upon secondary testing so that travelers can avoid the 14-day inter island quarantine by taking a test 72 hours before traveling to those islands, but for now Hawaii County has opted out.
“One of the challenges on Hawaii Island is that they are seeing a surge in cases. And you know, when you look at the per capita number of cases, they actually have been above Oahu numbers in probably the last three weeks,” Ige explained.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell has expressed interest in a second test for travelers upon arrival in Honolulu as well. The governor said the state has been working with the City to make that happen, though when that could begin or how that would interface with the current pre-testing program is still being worked out.
“He [Caldwell] has made arrangements for a state-of-the-art trailer that we’ve actually located already at Honolulu International Airport. They believe that they can process up to 10,000 tests per day and that they can do the tests within three hours,” he said.
Ige spoke about the newly announced DA BUX program, which will double the value of SNAP benefits spent on locally grown food at participating grocery stores.
He also took questions on the state rental relief program, Caldwell’s 4-tiered reopening system, and the state of Hawaii’s economy.
Given the state’s looming budget shortfall, Ige said there will likely be furloughs or layoffs for state employees.
“The budget situation is very bad. You know, we are in a budget crisis. Right now we are getting about 25% less in tax revenues than the size of government. So we have an annual budget deficit that we’re looking at between $1.3 and $1.5 billion every year, and clearly that’s not sustainable. So we are going to have to reduce the size of state government,” he said.
The state is in talks with collective bargaining representatives to figure out the least painful way balance the budget. While Ige said he wished that no one would have to lose their job, the state simply does not have enough money to keep current staffing levels.
“Even if there is another CARES Act package, we definitely have to right size state government moving forward,” he said.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.