Few positive tests in post-travel program

HONOLULU — Since the launch of the Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15, the first round of post-travel testing indicates very few travelers have tested positive for COVID-19 after arrival to Hawai‘i.

From Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 there have been 10 confirmed positives out of 11,027 tests conducted, for a positivity rate of .091%.

The Safe Travels Testing Evaluation Program, or strategic-surveillance study, collects and evaluates data from COVID-19 testing of travelers post-arrival to Hawai‘i. The program is intended to gauge the frequency of COVID-19 among returning residents and visitors and determine the effectiveness of the Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program.

“This surveillance study is one more layer of safety to complement the overall Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.

“We are at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic when we need to balance public health and safety with the economic well-being of our islands, which as we know is also very much tied to the health of Hawai‘i’s people,” said Green. “We anticipate this study will serve as a guide for state leadership and policy-makers on how to move Hawai‘i forward.”

To participate in the study, individuals must have also participated in the Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program, which requires travelers to receive a negative nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) from a trusted testing partner 72 hours prior to departure to Hawai‘i in order to avoid the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Individuals are chosen via representative systematic selection to participate in the program by getting a second test one to four days after their arrival to Hawai‘i. The second test is voluntary and free of charge to participants.

The state has partnered with pharmacies, health-care facilities and hotel properties to conduct testing on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island.

The following are testing and sharing data for the study: Premier Medical Group, Hawai‘i Pacific Health, The Queen’s Health Systems, Doctors of Waikiki, Kaiser Permanente, Adventist Health Castle, The Resort Group and select Walgreens locations. Additionally, the study is evaluating post-arrival-testing data from the counties.

Dr. DeWolfe Miller, epidemiologist from the University of Hawai‘i’s John A. Burns School of Medicine, is leading the study in coordination with Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, Governor’s Office, Green and testing partners.

“The results of this study will demonstrate if screening for symptoms and an NAAT test for COVID-19 is negative prior to travel to Hawai‘i will be sufficient to keep Hawai‘i safe from additional introduction of COVID-19 infection,” Miller said. “To do that, the project is screening (re-testing) a sample of arrivals.”

The state will fund up to $1.5 million for the program via Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, as the program provides a critical layer of security for the overall Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program.

The program began on Oct. 18 and will run through Dec. 31. Regular updates will be given to policy-makers and data updates will be available once-weekly to media and the public. The Safe Travels Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program may be adjusted based on the program’s findings in the coming weeks. An overall report will be finalized once the study concludes.

For more information, see hawaiicovid19.com/.

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