Traveler quarantine extended until Sept. 1

LIHU‘E — State officials will postpone a plan to permit tourists to travel to Hawai‘i if they obtain a negative test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure for at least 30 days, until Sept. 1.

The announcement was made Monday by Gov. David Ige, apparently bowing to increasing pressure from the state’s four mayors, doctors and the public to put off the option for tourists to come to Hawai‘i if they test negative or, if they decline to take a test, accept a 14-day quarantine after they arrive.

At a news conference, Ige also said Hawai‘i schools are still on track to reopen on Aug. 4, utilizing a so-called “blended” approach mixing in-person instruction and distance learning. He said delaying allowing tourists to come to the state based on a single negative COVID test would avoid having the new tourism standards and reopening of schools occur during the same week.

“We obviously are talking to the mayors and (the Department of Education) about whether it’s safe to reopen the schools,” Ige said. “At this point, we do believe it is safe.”

Eliminating the testing option will leave in place the mandatory quarantine for all tourists, as well as residents who travel outside the state and return. Ige’s decision came after more than a week of growing controversy over whether the state is ready for tourists who would avoid quarantine entirely.

Reaction to Ige’s announcement was swift. Mark Perriello, president of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, said, “the state and counties must recognize the tremendous sacrifice that our small businesses are making in order to help safeguard the health of Hawai‘i’s residents.”

Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, in a statement after the announcement said, “The governor and his team put together a good plan but unfortunately, circumstances on the mainland changed drastically these past few weeks and I believe the governor made the right decision. Quite frankly, now is not the time for leisurely travel. And if you absolutely must travel, you need to quarantine for 14 days.”

The governor acknowledged that the postponement of the new tourism rules would increase already significant economic hardship throughout the islands. He said the ramifications for people and their families meant it was “not a simple decision.

“Our economy has suffered. This will make our economic recovery more challenging, but your health and safety comes first. I know these are difficult times. I am confident that, together, we will prevail.”

There was also concern within the medical community. Dr. Lee Evslin, an organizer of an ad hoc committee of doctors and community leaders that has been pressing for a requirement for not just one, but two COVID tests, separated by a mandatory six-day quarantine, said “I am glad it has been delayed. I think it is the only choice at this time.

“I remain very worried that the current plan for reopening, whenever it happens, will not provide enough safety.”

Ige said the change in policy was necessitated by the explosive growth of COVID cases on the mainland, especially in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

A second factor, Ige said, was the abrupt decision by a leading manufacturer or COVID testing reagents to strip Hawaii of half the supply the state was receiving so the chemicals can be reallocated to more severely affected states, like California.

“We have always said we will make decisions based on the health and safety of our community as our highest priority,” Ige said. “On the mainland, we continue to see uncontrolled outbreaks and surges. We do not believe that will change significantly by Aug. 1.”

Ige made the decision after at least three virtual meetings with the state’s four mayors last week at which the mayors urged delay.

Despite the governor’s announcement, American Airlines confirmed it still plans to restart nonstop service to Lihue from at least Los Angeles that day.

United Airlines did not respond to requests for comment. Alaska Airlines, whose flight schedules showed on Monday that it, too, would resume nonstop service to Lihu‘e from as many as three airports on Aug. 1 said its plans were being “reevaluated.” Southwest Airlines, which has been flying to Lihu‘e through Honolulu for several weeks, said, “we don’t have any updates specific to our Hawaii schedule.”

Delta Airlines did not respond; Hawaiian Airlines said it would be “scaling back” its previously announced plans to resume service from the mainland in the wake of Ige’s announcement. Resumption of direct flights from the mainland to Lihu‘e could substantially increase the number of tourists flooding the island.

Ige said the COVID testing system in Hawai‘i was unexpectedly thrown into chaos last week by Roche Diagnostics’ withdrawal of half the state’s supply of testing reagents. He said tests processed in Hawai‘i can return results within 24 to 48 hours, but if testing samples have to be sent to the mainland, the turnaround time can be between five and 10 days—so long that test results might be useless to public officials trying to track active cases.

  1. randy kansas July 14, 2020 4:18 am Reply

    in many areas property values have dropped and local governments will be looking for ways to raise your taxes due to the pandemic…so make sure you dispute your property tax value and amounts each year with your county; we hire a service every year (really hard to get it done by yourself, cause we tried that at first) and they do not get paid, unless they get results/discounts; seems to have helped us over the years; you might be able to get some type of $$$ relief, from a lower tax value to help offset any rise in rates…hope this helps you !

  2. Palani July 14, 2020 7:13 am Reply

    This risks being “The operation was a success, but the patient died.” How are people supposed to live without tourist dollars?

    1. J.D. July 15, 2020 4:20 am Reply

      In our county, In Minnesota, we had the 2nd highest infection rate in the nation the first 2 weeks of May. The hospitals were making their staff take time off because they were so slow.
      The symptoms were like a mild flu, or no symptoms at all. People were told to stay home and treat it like the flu.

  3. What? July 14, 2020 7:30 am Reply

    Wow this is a great idea. We shouldn’t allow anyone in the state that has any disease. Really! Why stop at just preventing covid. We should test all tourists for dengue, malaria, SARS, Swine flu, measles, aids everything….. And why stop there, we dont want to overwhelm our vacant hospitals with pesky sick people, any one who has cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, obesity etc THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED either. And if your a resident and get covid or have any medical problems you should be quarantined to Molokai like the lepers. When or where is this germaphobe nonsense going to end.

    1. J.D. July 15, 2020 4:11 am Reply

      In 2018 .009% of the world population died. Mostly because of the flu. 2020 we have .006% of the world population dying and are closing states down. ?????
      All of the government future projections have been wrong. It is instilling fear in people.
      If Hawaii had not closed they would have reached the 70% needed for herd immunity and this would be over. They are just prolonging the agony.

  4. J.D. July 14, 2020 8:00 am Reply

    Over 99% of the people that have the virus have slight or no symptoms.

    1. Dr. Jim July 14, 2020 1:59 pm Reply

      I’m not sure where you get your numbers. Based on most published and peer reviewed medical reports available in early July, 40 % of patients are asymptomatic. Roughly 20 percent of the symptomatic patients require hospitalization ( ~12% of total infections). And one fourth of them end up on ventilators (3% of infected people). With the newer antiviral therapies and use of steroids, 50% of those live ( for a death rate of 1.5%). What has not been adequately evaluated is what persistent health effects occur in people that recover. There is definitely an increased incidence in long term pulmonary compromise (this is a fibrosing pneumonia) and blood clot related problems (heart disease, stroke).

      So for Kauai, if 66% of the population gets the disease and we achieve “herd immunity” – which is not guaranteed, we would have roughly 50,00 people infected over time. Roughly 30,000 of them would be ill, and 6000 people would require hospitalization. 1500 of them would require a ventilator and 750 would die.

      These numbers may not be right a year from now, but the best medical understanding that exists now suggests this is the actual case. If herd immunity doesn’t occur , or immunity doesn’t persist, the numbers could look worse. IF treatments get better, the numbers might look better. If a vaccine is developed that is highly effective, the numbers should be better.

      Though I take exception with your statement of fact, I agree with your questions. We have been given another month to prepare. What are we going to do with it? Why haven’t we done more up to now?

    2. jake July 14, 2020 5:44 pm Reply

      JD, you keep saying that like a wind-up toy. Your “99%” mild symptoms concept doesn’t compute with the number of hospitalizations and fatalities that have occurred from this disease. You been taking math lessons from the Liar in Chief in the Whitehouse who single-handed bankrupted 6 casinos?

  5. J.D. July 14, 2020 8:03 am Reply

    Why has the health care system not taken this time to prepare? What will they do to prepare between now and September?

  6. Rick July 14, 2020 9:32 am Reply

    wow, thanks again IGE! Keep up the destruction!

  7. Joe Public July 14, 2020 10:44 am Reply

    Good! Although unfortunately our economy relies on it, they way the mainland is exploding with new cases, we don’t have enough beds here in Hawaii to accomodate.

  8. Paul F Sammons July 14, 2020 1:35 pm Reply

    Well that did it for us. We usually come over for a couple months in summer and spend around $30k on Kauai’s economy. But we just cancelled. I guess you don’t need our business, so we’ll visit a friendlier state.

    1. Mahalo! July 15, 2020 3:27 pm Reply

      Really, thank you for staying away! You sound like someone who wouldn’t wear a mask, too. So the chances that you spread mainland disease are pretty high, and these restrictions are aimed exactly at people like you.

    2. boohoo July 15, 2020 8:13 pm Reply

      good , don’t come back

  9. Le nom de Plume July 14, 2020 6:01 pm Reply

    Great idea. Let’s roll up into the fetal position and let the rest of the country risk going back to work to keep us propped up until this Covid thing runs itself out. I’m sure they’re doing well enough to keep the spigot of money flowing full tilt. I’m sure they’re willing to do without so we don’t have to.

  10. Jake July 15, 2020 2:59 am Reply

    Politicians are worthless. Hawaii’s ONLY industry is tourism……it PRODUCES nothing. So the Governor didn’t see opening the state back up…..for what……10 months?? We should have had a plan the day after we closed the state.

    There will be a COVID-20, 21, 22, 23, 24, etc. See past Friday LEADERS!!! You are bankrupting the State for a “virus” with a confirmed CDC death rate of .2%.

    Add another to the $6 TRILLION already added to the national debt which will be passed on to your children, your grandchildren, and their children. Bankrupt the tourism industry and service industry, exacerbate mental health problems, delay surgeries and treatments, keep laying off people, increase the suicide rates, shutdown the schools and colleges, and keep giving unmitigated power to elected officials. Stop the madness!

    1. Joke July 15, 2020 3:28 pm Reply

      Well, you have the numerical facts wrong, but that aside… What is your plan?

  11. Shawn July 15, 2020 8:41 am Reply

    All you idiots that still want to put tourist dollars ahead of your communities need to reasses your lives and realize this can be a great learning moment. We can all live more sustainably, using local products and not suckling of the teat of the mainland mentality. We don’t all need huge house and a brand new Toyota Tacoma every three years. Enjoy your family enjoy your friends and community. The tourism industry is not sustainable what a better time than now to cut the cord.

  12. Das right July 15, 2020 11:34 pm Reply

    I say let them come and spend their money here and boost our economy. In my opinion, Hawaii and especially Kaua’i people have been pretty good at wearing our masks, keeping our distance, stores and restaurants are taking necessary precautions to keep our people safe. We know how to avoid mass spread of the virus. We are very good with the contact tracing, and those that catch it here have been abiding to the 14 day quarantine. The result? No new cases for many days in a row. Kawakami keeps saying that all of the recent cases were mild to no symptoms. Kauai people are Akamai, and I believe we are able to take care of ourselves, each other, and the tourists at the same time.

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