Pre-Travel Testing Program Delayed to Sept. 1
For the past four months, a 14-day quarantine has been in place for travelers in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a press conference Monday, Gov. David Ige said the decision to delay lifting the quarantine mandate wasn’t easy. Between the surging cases on the mainland and a daily record number of cases recorded in Hawai‘i over the weekend, officials had to reevaluate the timeframe for reopening.
“We have always said that we will make decisions based on the health and safety of the community,” Ige said, adding the increase in cases is a clear trend that they must take action on and take seriously.
“We don’t believe that situation will change significantly by Aug. 1,” Ige said of the growing number of cases on the mainland.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make, Ige explained. State and county leaders were presented with two difficult choices: one, to reopen and risk the spread of the virus; or two, delay the reopening and risk further damage to the local economy.
“The mayors and I fully understand the gravity of the choices before us and believed it was in everyone’s best interest to delay,” Ige said.
The governor said he still believes in the pre-travel testing program and they are making significant progress in its development. The program would allow for travelers to come to the state without having to quarantine after receiving a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to travel.
In response to today’s announcement, Chris Tatum, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority 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.”
Additionally, the mainland’s uncontrolled outbreaks have affected the supply chain for testing. Testing within the state allows for results within 24 hours. However, if samples have to be sent for testing to the mainland, it takes five to seven days for results.
“That delay is unacceptable for us to contain and control the virus on the island,” the governor said.
With the postponement of reopening travel, Ige announced the state will extend a moratorium on evictions. Rather than exasperate the homeless situation, he said, the state will provide relief for another month and see what kind of assistance will be available from the federal government at that time.
While the pre-testing travel program won’t be up and running by the time college students return for the fall semester, University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner said they’ve already been working on a program that will allow students to return safely.
“They’d be in a modified quarantine bubble,” Lassner explained of the program.
Students would be allowed to attend classes and university activities, but that’s it. They will remain in the bubble for 14 days. During that time, they will receive daily health checks and provided meals.
The program is only applicable to UH campuses on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.