All Counties to Partake in Pre-Travel Testing Program, Big Island Opts Out of Interisland Travel

October 13, 2020, 1:55 PM HST (Updated October 13, 2020, 2:10 PM)
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Gov. David Ige. Courtesy photo.

All counties will participate in Hawai‘i’s pre-travel coronavirus testing program following negotiations between Gov. David Ige and the mayors of the state’s various counties.

Hawai‘i County will implement the strictest policy, requiring an antigen test for all arriving trans-Pacific travelers. This will be a second test following the mandatory test required at least 72 hours before any travel to Hawai‘i from the mainland. These tests can be administered by 17 different partners, including CVS, Walgreens, Kaiser Permanente, and several major airlines. The pre-travel testing program will begin statewide on Thursday, Oct. 15.

The Big Island secondary tests will be administered at all three Hawai’i Island airports: Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole, Waimea-Kohala Airport, and Hilo International Airport.

“This second test upon arrival to Hawai’i Island will provide an extra layer of protection for our community,” Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said. “Virtually all medical and coronavirus experts agree for the necessity of more than one test.”

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The cost of the rapid COVID-19 arrival test will be borne by Hawai‘i County via federal CARES Act funding. Testing will be managed by the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency staff and administered by Premier Medical Group Hawai’i.

This antigen test will provide results within 15-20 minutes. If a traveler tests negative for COVID-19, they will not be subject to self-quarantine. Those testing positive for COVID-19 will be required to take a subsequent PCR test immediately and will be required to self-quarantine per state Department of Health rules while awaiting the results of this test, which can be expected within 36 hours.

Kaua‘i and Maui Counties will implement voluntary post-arrival COVID tests for entrance to those islands. Kaua‘i will offer the voluntary test for mainland travelers on their third day post-arrival. Honolulu County is exploring its capacity to include a second test in the process, though Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said testing supplies would need to drastically increase for a second test to be a reality for those arriving on O‘ahu. Ige announced another $30 million in CARES Act funding to be spent on COVID tests and testing supplies in the coming weeks, which may help in that regard.

Surveillance testing will also be done post-arrival, testing roughly 10% of those who arrive in the state on a voluntary basis. Those who test positive as part of surveillance testing will not be required to quarantine. They won’t be informed of the results of their tests unless they request that information. The testing will be done for scientific purposes to gauge how well initial mainland tests pre-departure are working to catch COVID cases before they arrive on Hawaiian shores.

The governor said he is also exploring a pre-travel testing program with Japan and will be speaking with Japanese authorities about the process Tuesday afternoon.

People who test positive via their first tests on the mainland will go into quarantine upon arrival in Hawai‘i. They must quarantine until results are produced if a negative test has not yet been returned upon their arrival in the state.

Lt. Governor Josh Green was asked whether there is a number of positive COVID cases that would instigate a rollback to the pre-travel testing program. In response, he said the state is totally committed to the program and likely will be until a vaccine is created.

“I don’t expect a surge of consequence until we see big surges on the East Coast in the winter,” Green said.

Both Green and Ige asserted that the initial mainland COVID test will catch most cases, though that has been disputed by critics of the program, and that the flow of tourists will start small and slowly build over time.

Testing capacity and contact tracers have been increased throughout the state to deal with any future spikes, Ige added.

Interisland travel returning, but not for Big Island

The governor also announced that Kaua‘i and Maui have agreed to implement a pre-travel testing program for interisland travel, which will allow those traveling from O‘ahu to Maui and Kaua‘i the chance to avoid quarantine if they test negative for coronavirus at least 72 hours before departure.

This program will also begin this Thursday. Hawai‘i County has not yet agreed to participate.

Ige signed his 14th emergency proclamation on Tuesday, which cements the pre-travel testing policies. It also extends the state’s prohibition on evictions for non-payment of rent and the expiration dates on state IDs and driver’s licenses until Nov. 30, 2020.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter, and radio talk show personality covering college athletics in Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing, and his work as a sports columnist.

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