LIHU‘E — With a week left before reopening, the state is committing to a surveillance testing program that will randomly select 10% of travelers to take a state-funded second test.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the program will “ideally” start four days after reopening, on Oct. 19.
“Getting people to voluntarily take a test is part of something bigger, which is the safety of Hawai‘i,” Green, at a press conference at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Wednesday, said.
Next Thursday, the state will open on its Safe Travels program, allowing travelers into the state to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine by providing a NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) result from a certified lab administered within 72 hours of arrival from a trusted testing partner.
The state has partnered with testing facilities and travel airlines, including AFC Urgent Care, Carbon Health, CityHealth Urgent Care, Color, CVS Health, Hawaiian Airlines, Kaiser Permanente (for members only), Quest Diagnostics, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Vault Health and Walgreens.
The pre-test must come from a trusted partner, Green said, because it will allow the state to double-check the status of the test if needed.
Details are still being finalized on the surveillance program, Green said, but essentially, at random, 10% of incoming travelers will receive a test four days later.
Dr. Libby Char, Director of the state’s Department of Health, said that a second test should be added once there’s the testing capacity.
“The science currently dictates that more layers of protection, such as more testing, is safer than less testing,” Char said. “While the Safe Travels program adds a greater layer of safety, DOH supports additional testing for travelers entering our state and a second test should be added as soon as testing supplies and logistics make this feasible. The Dept. of Health will continue to advocate for this additional layer of protection as the situation evolves in Hawai‘i and new tests and new information become available.”
Ige said he recognizes that mayors must balance reopening with the safety of their communities, but that bringing back tourists is essential to the economy.
“This is the biggest single effort since the pandemic began to revive our economy,” Ige said.
The state isn’t expecting a rush of tourists next week, and many airlines have stated they will not be expanding service until November.
Ige said he is working with mayors to lift the interisland quarantine, which Mayor Derek Kawakami has noted as prioritizing tourists to locals.
“The interisland quarantine is to keep neighbor islands safe,” Ige said.
The state will also receive 420,000 Abbot BINAXNOW rapid antigen tests from the federal government by the end of the year, with tests coming in weekly. These 15-minute tests will first go toward long term care centers and to schools reopening, Gov. David Ige said.
On Wednesday, the state reported 110 new positive cases and three additional deaths.
There are currently 109 people hospitalized from the virus, which is a 65% decrease from peak hospitalization, according to Green.
Of the new cases, 18 are on Hawai‘i Island, 90 on O‘ahu and two out of state for a cumulative total of 13,045 cases statewide since the end of February.