(BIVN) – Governor David Ige announced today that the State will delay a planned transpacific pre-travel testing program that would have allowed visitors to avoid a 14-day quarantine when arriving to Hawaiʻi.
A few weeks ago, Governor David Ige said the State of Hawaiʻi planned to begin the program on August 1st, restarting the tourism economy by welcoming out-of-state travelers for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown. However, a recent rise in cases in several states, as well as a shortage in testing supplies due to the increase, prompted the decision.
“We have assessed the current situation here and in the mainland, and I am announcing today that we will be delaying the launch of the pre-travel testing program until September 1,” said Governor Ige from the podium during a news conference that was livestreamed on his Facbook page. “We have always said that we will make decisions based on the health and safety of our community as the highest priority.”
As Governor Ige explained, Hawaiʻi set a new record in the number of cases reported in a single day with 42, just a few days after setting the previous record of 41 cases.
“On the U.S. mainland we continue to see uncontrolled outbreaks and surges,” Governor Ige said. “This include the highest number of daily cases set in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida, and increasing cases in Nevada.”
“As we speak right now, the outbreaks on the mainland are not in control, and we don’t believe that that situation would change significantly by August 1st, as we had hoped,” the governor said.
“The outbreaks on the mainland are also beginning to affect the supply chain of our testing supplies,” Governor Ige said. “We were unable to get the reagents and test kits that was necessary for one of the major testing labs here in the state of Hawaiʻi, and certainly this was a wake-up call that we need to pay attention to the supply chain.”
“We all know that when we are able to test here in the islands, we can get a result within 24 to 48 hours,” the governor said. “Any test that is sent to the mainland means a delay of between 5 days, as much as a week or longer, before we get test results. And we do know that delay is unacceptable for us to contain and maintain control over the virus here in the islands.”
“This was not an easy decision,” Governor Ige said. “To me, it really was a choice between two difficult options. On one hand, we continue to move forward and reopen our economy but risk an uncontrolled surge of COVID-19 cases. On the other hand, we could delay the pre-travel test program and risk further damage to our economy.”
“I know that this increases the burden on businesses here in the islands, especially small businesses,” the governor said. “But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community.”
UPDATE – (4 p.m.) – In response to today’s announcement, Chris Tatum, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) said, “We want to welcome back our visitors once our state is ready to do so in a safe manner that will hopefully avoid the need to backtrack in the future. Once we receive details on the process and requirements from the Department of Transportation and the DOH, we will share that information with the visitor industry.”
Governor Ige also announced today that University of Hawai‘i will utilize a new “modified quarantine bubble” for Out-of-State Students. The State shared this information in a later news release:
With the governor’s announcement today that the pre-testing travel program will be delayed until Sept. 1 for out-of-state travelers, UH announced that students with a negative test will be able to be in a “modified bubble quarantine.” This means if they get a negative COVID-19 test, they can participate in the “bubble,” and will be allowed to attend university activities only. Other than that, they will have to remain in their residence. They’ll also be required to do daily health checks, in which they will be asked about symptoms such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. The modified bubble will last for 14 days, similar to the 14-day quarantine other out-of-state travelers have to follow. Other schools like Hawai‘i Pacific University, Chaminade, and Brigham Young University will offer a similar program. More details are expected to be announced Tuesday, July 14.
The Governor also provided a progress update on the pre-travel testing program he hopes to have in place for September 1st, reiterating the outline of the program:
- Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab
- Travelers exempt for mandatory 14-day quarantine if testing negative no more than 72 hours in advance of travel
- If results are not available by time of arrival, quarantine necessary until test results received
- All travelers of all ages subject to pre-test requirement
- Individuals responsible for testing costs
- No commercial testing provided at Hawai‘i airports
The pre-test will be one part of a “multi-layered screening process” that he says “includes arrival temperature checks, completion of the State Travel and Health form, and secondary screening for those with symptoms or temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher.”