Trans-pacific travel will reopen to visitors Aug. 1 under a pre-travel testing program as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.
Gov. David Ige made the decision 13 weeks ago to implement a 14-day quarantine for all travelers in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect Hawai‘i’s communities.
“This is the next phase to slowly and carefully return our lives to a more normal,” said Ige on Wednesday during a press conference at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, adding the program allows the state to welcome visitors to the islands and keep the community safe.
Temperature checks and screenings will continue and travelers will be required to fill out health forms, which will be verified upon arrival. Visitors who don’t take a pre-travel test will be required to abide by the 14-day quarantine.
State officials and community partners are still working out the details of verifying tests. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said they are looking at requiring a negative COVID-19 test 72-hours before travel. This is a policy similar to what Alaska has implemented.
Green said the state plans to partner with CVS Pharmacy in creating a database where the company could offer tests to travelers and the state would be able to access that information.
Green said this program isn’t a silver bullet, but it will minimize the risk of importing the virus.
There are many layers to this program, officials say, and more protocols are being developed.
The need to get Hawai‘i back to work is imperative.
“We know that this virus has had a tremendous impact on our economy,” Ige said. “Businesses have closed, over 200,000 residents have filed for unemployment.”
Hawai‘i Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said Hawai‘i is the envy of the nation as the number of new cases remains low.
“Today, they had 38,000 cases in the US — we had 16,” Anderson said.
The 14-day quarantine, Anderson said, has allowed the state to build the infrastructure to handle the cases and do contact tracing. Currently, there are 200 contact tracers statewide with 300 more individuals slated to be trained.
“We’re much more confident in identifying and responding to new cases,” he said. “We are prepared should we see a surge in cases or an outbreak.”
Currently, Anderson said, there are 105 individuals hospitals with only three people ventilators. Additionally, the hospitals have a 50-day supply of personal protective equipment.
Social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands, officials say, is still the best defense against COVID-19.