Gov. David Ige said since the Safe Travels program began, nearly 300 people have entered the state and then been informed of a positive COVID-19 test. That figure encompasses a mix of returning residents and visitors, some of whom arrived in the islands without any testing, some who had pending results when they boarded their flights, and others who had with a negative test upon arrival but then later tested positive for the virus in the state’s surveillance testing. A positive result, particularly for a non-resident, creates a myriad of challenges beyond the health risks.
“Once that happens, we’ve had hotels cancel their reservations, you know, they are often times placed on a ‘do not board’ list by the CDC, where they can’t leave the islands then for 14 days. And so even though it may be less than 300 of those cases, it could represent, if they became positive on the airlines and that they had to isolate the close contacts of those individuals, you know, it could be as many as 3,000 people who end up being on this no fly list and cannot leave the islands,” Ige explained this morning on Spotlight Hawaii.
Ige said that number played a large part in his decision to mandate a negative test for everyone entering the state, in order to bypass a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
All four county mayors have called for more testing upon arrival. The Governor said agrees that more testing is better, but the state has limited testing capacity. Ige said he will be meeting with Mayor Kirk Caldwell early this week to discuss how to best use the city’s new testing facility at the airport.
“I’m glad that Mayor Caldwell had brought in that testing trailer at the airport, and we’re trying to develop a more robust testing program that can utilize that capacity,” he said.
The Governor also spoke about the state’s financial challenges, which are substantial. The state is facing a budget shortfall of up to $1.5 billion dollars, which translates to roughly 25% of the state’s budget. Ige is currently drafting the proposed budget, which he will present next month. He said everything is on the table, including furloughs and layoffs.
“Every department and agency will be impacted, there’s nobody that will be spared. We will be forced to be cutting public education and the University, as well as you know, social safety net programs,” Ige said.
“We wish that we didn’t have to. We will be putting a priority on those programs but a 25% reduction in revenues is just something that is so significant it will impact virtually all of the programs in state government.”
Hawaii has the lowest coronavirus positivity rate in the country, which Ige said is thanks to the tremendous sacrifices of local residents. He thanked the community for wearing masks, complying with social distancing requirements, and caring for one another.
“I did just want to thank the people of Hawaii. I’m proud to be Governor of Hawaii and we have responded well to the pandemic. The virus does not recognize boundaries and so we all need to remain vigilant,” 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.