HONOLULU — Maui County plans to enroll in Hawaii’s pre-travel coronavirus testing program scheduled to start next week, while at least one other county leader continued to resist joining the initiative.
Democratic Gov. David Ige gave county mayors the choice to “opt out” of the program, but said Wednesday he had not received any official requests to refuse enrollment.
“We have completed all the preparations necessary to implement the program on Oct. 15,” Ige said.
The program, which was initially scheduled to begin Aug. 1, allows trans-Pacific arrivals to bypass the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine for visitors by producing a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of a Hawaii flight.
Hawaii is also partnering with several U.S. mainland pharmacies and airlines for testing. Incoming passengers will load their information onto a website and mobile app for tracking by state officials.
“We have not opted out,” Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said Wednesday.
A majority of the Big Island’s state legislators sent a letter to Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, expressing concerns about his stated intent to opt out of the program and leave the 14-day quarantine in place.
The letter from three state senators and six representatives, all Democrats, was sent in reaction to a Tuesday statement from Kim’s office saying he wants a round of post-travel COVID-19 testing for trans-Pacific travelers in addition to the pre-travel test.
The letter said Kim’s refusal to join the program would mean “effectively continuing a shutdown of tourism for Hawaii Island.”
Before the pandemic, the state received about 30,000 visitors daily.
The legislators believe using only closures and shutdowns when cases increase is not sustainable or effective over the long term, the letter said.
“Other steps to manage this pandemic must be taken,” the letter said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.