Question: Is the state planning to do anything about their trusted testing partners not being able to meet the 72-hour deadline for test results? My daughter flew home from college on Nov. 24, on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Seattle. She followed the Safe Travels regulations and used a trusted testing partner called Vault Health for her COVID-19 test (which Hawaiian also recommends). She submitted the test as directed in the time frame that they required to get the test back on time, and then she did not receive the test results in the promised 72 hours. She landed in Hawaii at 2 p.m. and got her test results around an hour later (negative). Now she has to quarantine for two weeks. And, we paid for a test that will do nothing for her. It is not acceptable for the state to have a requirement of a negative COVID-19 test in hand prior to travel to Hawaii if their trusted partners are not able to hold up their end of the deal.
Answer: We shared your concern with the state Department of Health and the governor’s office, and received the following response from Jodi Leong, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige:
“The new policy requiring travelers to have a negative test result from a trusted testing partner prior to departure aims to keep Hawaii safe from the COVID-19 surge on the mainland. Trusted testing partners are aware of the timeframe in which COVID-19 test results are needed for trans-Pacific travelers heading to Hawaii, but whether the timeframe is achievable is something the traveler should explore and discuss with the testing partner. Unfortunately, testing partners are facing an unprecedented surge on the mainland, where labs are backlogged, dealing with the huge demand for tests. Travelers bound for Hawaii are advised that they may face challenges in getting negative test results in hand before departure.”
We also emailed Vault Health and Hawaiian Airlines but did not hear back immediately. However, Vault Health has updated its website to say that people flying to Hawaii on a Tuesday or Wednesday through the end of the year should not use Vault’s self-administered, mail-in COVID-19 test to avoid quarantine.
The warning, which came too late for your daughter, who flew on a Tuesday, says a lack of UPS shipping on Sundays and increased UPS holiday traffic means tests results needed within the 72-hour window for travel on those days cannot be guaranteed. Otherwise, the company says elsewhere on its website, Vault “can usually guarantee results back in 48 to 72 hours after the completed sample arrives back at the lab.”
Prospective travelers can learn more at learn.vault health.com/state-of-hawaii.
The state of Hawaii tightened its pre-travel testing program as of Nov. 24, requiring trans-Pacific passengers who want to avoid the 14-day quarantine to have a negative result from an acceptable COVID-19 test before boarding their Hawaii-bound flight. Prior to that, a passenger awaiting a result from an approved preflight test could quarantine until the result came in, then exit quarantine, if the test was negative. (Note: Kauai has opted out of the pre-travel testing program and requires passengers to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of testing.)
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