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Less than 1% of travelers test positive for COVID-19 in post-travel testing program

Less than 1% of travelers who have been part of a post-travel COVID-19 testing program since Oct. 18 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The Safe Travels Hawaii pre-travel testing program, which began Oct. 15, allowed out-of-state visitors flying into the state to bypass the 14-day travel quarantine. In the Safe Travels Testing Program, which began on Oct. 18, some of those visitors have been tested to “gauge the frequency of COVID-19 among returning residents and visitors and determine the effectiveness” of the pre-arrivals testing program.

HI-EMA reported today that of the roughly 11,000 people who have been tested post-arrival, only 10 have been found to have COVID-19.

“This surveillance study is one more layer of safety to complement the overall Safe Travels Hawaii pre-travel testing program,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said in a statement today. “We are at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic when we need to balance public health and safety with the economic well-being of our Islands, which as we know is also very much tied to the health of Hawaii’s people. We anticipate this study will serve as a guide for state leadership and policy makers on how to move Hawaii forward.”

To avoid the 14-day quarantine, travelers have to receive a negative nucleic acid amplification test, or NAAT, from one of Hawaii’s trusted testing partners 72 hours before flying into the state.

Dr. DeWolfe Miller, epidemiologist from the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, is leading the study in coordination with the state and its testing partners.

“The results of this study will demonstrate if screening for symptoms and an NAAT test for COVID-19 is negative prior to travel to Hawaii will be sufficient to keep Hawaii safe from additional introduction of COVID-19 infection,” Miller said in a statement. “To do that the project is screening … a sample of arrivals.”

Up to $1.5 million from federal CARES Act funding will be used for the post-travel testing program, which will run through Dec. 31.

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