Post-Arrival COVID Testing at Kona, Hilo Airports to Continue Into January
Transpacific travel testing at Hawai‘i County’s airports will continue through the new year through a public-private partnership.
On Wednesday, Mayor Mitch Roth announced the county was partnering with a private funder to ensure testing continues at Hilo International Airport and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole at least until Jan. 15, 2021.
“It has been humbling to work alongside vested members of our community, the hotel industry, and generous philanthropists who share in a deep sense of aloha and responsibility for our island home to find immediate solutions that help to keep our community safe”, Roth said. “It is my hope that these types of public-private partnerships will become a cornerstone of our administration.”
At this time, the private funder would prefer to remain anonymous.
The post-arrival testing is unique to Hawaiʻi County and was outlined in former Mayor Harry Kim’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 13. The testing, which is currently funded by CARES monies was slated to end in December, pending additional funding.
As part of the Safe Travels program with the state, transpacific travelers must have a negative COVID test prior to their arrival if they want to opt-out of the mandatory self-quarantine. Post-travel testing for arriving transpacific travelers has been going on for approximately two months in Hawaii County.
The testing on the Big Island is meant to add a layer of protection for Hawaiʻi Island residents as tourism slowly returns. So far, health care workers have detected 45 positive cases in travelers who had received the state’s negative test exemption.
The county has been working with Premier Medical Group (PMG) to make this testing possible. PMG’s Dr. Kaohimanu Akiona said their work at the airports has been criticized, but the program has its benefits in protecting the public’s health.
“We thank all of those who worked tirelessly to meet the deadline to ensure that no days of testing were missed.”