On Friday, after the World Surf League announced the suspension of the Pipe Masters world championship surf competition at Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline because WSL CEO Erik Logan and four other staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, the coconut wireless flared up with speculation over the outbreak’s source.
Over the weekend, social media and surf blogs speculated Brazilian professional surfer and Pipe Masters entrant Yago Dora may have spread the virus, based on an Instagram post in which he reported, in his native Portuguese, he had tested negative for COVID-19 before his Nov. 26 flight from Brazil to Dallas, Texas, but then tested positive in the Dallas airport and, rather than continuing his trip to Hawaii, went into isolation in a hotel room for 10 days.
Dora said he was released from isolation after 10 days, but his COVID test remained positive. He added that with the help of WSL he received an exemption “from the Hawaiian government” allowing him to fly to Hawaii and bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine for arrivals who lack proof of a negative COVID test taken at least 72 hours before their flight.
According to the WSL and the state Attorney General’s Office, Dora was deemed not contagious by a medical doctor, as required for an exemption.
“Our office did issue to Yago Dora an exemption for persons who were COVID (positive) but are no longer at risk of infecting others,” Krishna Jayaram, public information officer for the Attorney General’s Office, said Monday in an email, referencing guidelines on the attorney general’s website.
According to the state’s “frequently asked questions” online, in order to qualify for a COVID-19 exemption to Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine, travelers who test positive must submit two pieces of information and receive approval prior to arrival.
Travelers must provide a copy of a positive nucleic acid amplification test from a certified laboratory taken prior to departure date, and a signed letter from a medical provider stating that they have not exhibited symptoms and are fully recovered.
Ten days is considered adequate time for a mild case of COVID-19 to become noncontagious, confirmed Dr. Pritish Tosh, a professor of medicine and infectious-disease physician and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The reason: “Long after a virus is nonviable, if it’s still lying around, you can amplify (its) sequences and the test would be positive, (but) that doesn’t mean somebody is still contagious,” Tosh said.
Studies have found that “people with positive tests didn’t infect contacts outside of that 10-day period, and we keep seeing that over and over again,” Tosh said, noting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control advises people with moderate symptoms to self-isolate for 10 days. Those who require ICU care are advised to isolate for 20 days after initial onset of symptoms.
On Wednesday the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Gov. David Ige’s announcement that, based on the recommendations of the CDC and the director of the state Department of Health, Hawaii will reduce its mandatory quarantine for travelers lacking a preflight negative test to 10 from 14 days.
WSL confirmed Dora had met the exemption requirements.
“Yago Dora has been medically cleared as having recovered from COVID- 19,” the organization said in an official response by email.
“This was not a special exemption,” WSL added, noting its availability to other travelers to Hawaii.
On Wednesday, Dora won Heat 2 of Round 1 on the first day of the Pipe Masters, which is celebrating its 50th year; competition was put on hold Wednesday and Thursday due to wave conditions before it was suspended indefinitely Friday due to COVID-19.
Dora’s social media post, which has since been removed, could still be viewed as of press time in an article in the Brazilian sports publication Globoesporte.globo.com.
The holding period for the Billabong Pipe Masters presented by Hydroflask, which remained suspended as of Monday afternoon, runs through Sunday.
Nathan Serota, public information officer for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, confirmed that, due to restrictions on gatherings under the city’s COVID-19 emergency rules, this Pipe Masters is being organized as a virtual event covered under a filming permit issued by the city’s Honolulu Film Office.
While Ehukai Beach Park and the beach fronting it will remain open to the public during the running of the Pipe Masters, “certain beach areas will be restricted for public access as a result of strict COVID-19 protocols,” Serota said, adding that the public “would be able to traverse around these areas” using designated access routes.
The Pipe Masters’ companion Hawaii event on the WSL world championship tour, the Maui Women’s Pro by Roxy at Maui’s Honolua Bay, was put on hold indefinitely due to a Dec. 8 fatal shark attack on a Maui recreational surfer before the start of the second day of competition; WSL later announced the event would not resume at Honolua Bay, but might be transferred to another site in the islands.