LIHU‘E — Matthew Olsen, 58, had gone to California for a week to have dental surgery. Aware he needed an authorized Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) COVID-19 test, he got one for $150 at an urgent-care clinic in El Centro, Calif., prior to his return.
But it wasn’t until he was on his Oct. 21 flight home that the Kapa‘a resident found out it wouldn’t be accepted to get him out of quarantine.
“I had a negative COVID test in-hand,” Olsen said Monday morning.
Olsen’s name and mugshot were included in a press release from the Kaua‘i Police Department last weekend alongside 13 others who had been arrested for violating COVID-19 quarantines since Oct. 15.
“It (the press release) doesn’t tell you I had a negative test,” he said.
The state continues to mandate a two-week quarantine in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, but allows the option to bypass it by providing a negative NAAT COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their departure flight to Kaua‘i. The catch, for some, is that the test must be through one of the state’s “trusted partners.”
While it may have been the correct test and within the time frame, the state is requiring tests be through the state’s Safe Travels program, which gives officials access to validate tests. Those who do not have the proper test are subject to quarantine in an approved accommodation for 14 days.
As of Friday, KPD has made 132 travel-related quarantine arrests, each subject to up to one year in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
KPD Assistant Chief Mark Begley confirmed that Olsen had a negative test from an outside vendor.
“When he arrived at the Lihu‘e Airport, he presented a mainland test result that did not fall within the acceptable guidelines established by the state of Hawai‘i Department of Health,” Begley said Monday afternoon.
“Mr. Olsen was informed that his test result was not from a trusted source and that he needed to quarantine. He was advised of the quarantine requirements. He was directed to go straight home and begin his quarantine,” said Begley.
Airport personnel helped Olsen through the Safe Travels online application, Olsen said.
“They ended up helping me through the online stuff,” he said. “I couldn’t get it done myself. It was extremely difficult.”
Olsen confirmed airport personnel told him he had to quarantine.
Under the assumption that while under quarantine he could seek medical attention, Olsen called the Lihu‘e Urgent Care Clinic, inquiring about COVID-19 testing options. He then headed to the location.
“I thought medical visits were OK, but it has to be an emergency,” Olsen said.
At the facility, Olsen was informed he could pay $150 for a test or take part in the county’s post-arrival testing option, he said.
However, the county’s post-arrival testing program at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall is only for residents who have already had an accepted pre-test through the state’s Safe Travel program.
KPD officers responded to a call from the facility reporting Olsen had become “agitated.”
When officers arrived around 6 p.m., Olsen was walking along Kaumuali‘i Highway as he called for a ride. He was arrested.
Able to post the $100 bail with money he had on him, Olsen said KPD officers drove him home afterward.
Monday, Olsen signed a state quarantine order, acknowledging that he is subject to quarantine, according to KPD. Olsen will quarantine, he said, but he always planned to get the pre-test and a post-arrival test, he said.
“Essentially, any time testing is disallowed, the likelihood of community spread is made worse,” Olsen said. “The people who have recently traveled are the most likely to be in danger of contracting and spreading COVID. Denying testing to these people is particularly counterproductive.”