HONOLULU – When Jeff and Jean Lilley flew to Dallas to be present for the birth of their first grandchild, they knew there was a chance they’d have to quarantine when they returned home.
However, they report their experience with Hawai‘i’s pre-travel testing program for incoming passengers, which started on Oct. 15, was largely positive. Jeff, the pastor of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, says preparation and practice were key to a smooth return to the islands and bypassing the mandatory, 14-day quarantine with a negative test result from a trusted testing and travel partner.
After the birth of their grandson Franklin, the couple spent nearly three weeks with him and his parents. While it wasn’t required, they also got tested when they arrived in Texas. “We all wanted to be sure no one was exposed, particularly Franklin,” Jean said.
Even before leaving Honolulu, the couple familiarized themselves with the functionality of the Hawai‘i Safe Travels application and set up their individual accounts. They feel it is really important to have a smartphone in order to be able to download PDF files of required test results, literally on-the-fly. They also researched information on the state’s trusted testing and travel partners; labs, pharmacies, clinics and online providers of approved pre-travel COVID-19 testing. They picked one of the national pharmacy chains for their tests in Dallas.
By the time they departed Dallas early one morning, they had not received their results and Jean says she was a little anxious about that. After landing in Los Angeles for a layover they discovered their negative test results were in. They’d already practiced uploading PDFs from their smartphones into the documents section of the mandatory travel and health form. By the time they landed back home, their results had been verified, and they sailed through health screenings at the airport without any issues and with no quarantine requirement.
Jeff said they were prepared to quarantine if necessary because they have jobs where that’s possible. They’d decided that even if the pre-travel testing program had not debuted on Oct. 15, they were going to travel regardless for the momentous occasion of Franklin’s birth.
“I’m glad the state has this program for people needing to travel to the mainland for various family reasons,” Jeff said.
Jean added that if not for the birth of their grandson they probably would not have traveled while coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.
Here are the Lilleys’ recommendations for preparing to travel out-of-state:
• Set up your account at travel.hawaii.gov well in advance;
• Familiarize yourself with what kind of information you’ll need to provide about your itinerary, current health status, residence/lodging and testing status;
• Know your technology and practice uploading PDF files to your phone so you can seamlessly transfer them to the Safe Travels app. Follow the directions on uploading a quality PDF file for your test result with the required information, which will help improve chances of expediting verification of test results. Visit ets.hawaii.gov/travelhelp/ for more information;
• Review the options for trusted testing and travel partners, as the state doesn’t accept COVID-19 testing from non-approved partners. Research which partners provide testing in your departure city or town and be sure to schedule within the 72-hour departure window.
The Lilleys were among the 204,685 trans-Pacific and international travelers to arrive in Hawai‘i since Oct. 15. They were lucky their test results were verified by the time they landed, as it can take two to three days to get results back if a passenger is unable to upload them prior to departing for the islands. During that time travelers are required to quarantine.