Big island could stop testing travelers after funding ends

HONOLULU — Coronavirus tests for travelers arriving on the Big Island could end as a new mayoral administration takes charge of the county and the deadline for federal virus recovery funding is reached.

Hawaii County has tested community members and arriving travelers for COVID-19, but the programs may change depending on available funding, KHON-TV reported Sunday.

“A lot of things that have been happening with COVID have been guided by the the CARES Act funds, and those funds have to be spent by Dec. 31,” Hawaii Island Mayor-Elect Mitch Roth said.

Some state government leaders have asked President Donald Trump and Congress to extend the Dec. 30 deadline for spending virus relief money already allocated under the CARES Act, which was approved in March, and to provide more federal funding to deal with the consequences of the latest surge.

Roth said there is other funding available for community testing that will likely continue, but traveler testing is conducted by county or contracted employees with the costs covered by federal funding.

“We’d like to continue that and so we’re looking at ways of continuing that, but we don’t have the funds to do it. That may come to an end,” Roth said.

Most of the county’s budget revenue comes from from property taxes. Roth said about $19 million to $20 million from the Transient Accommodations Tax will be will not be collected because of decreased tourism.

Roth said his financial recovery plans include putting people back to work safely and streamlining the permitting process.

“One of the big problems is Hawaii has been so anti-business,” Roth said. “We need to change that to help our businesses succeed. And when our businesses are succeeding, that means they’re going to be employing people.”

For most people, the 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.

  1. Doug December 1, 2020 4:07 pm Reply

    Charge the tourists for their testing; if you are dumb enough to travel during a pandemic and a surge at your homes on the mainland then you can afford to pay for your own testing; if you “have” to come here and can’t help yourself then you can afford to pay for your own testing; finally, if you can afford resort fees, parking fees, rental car fees, and an expensive vacation in general then you can afford to pay for your own testing. Or stay home. Problem solved.

  2. Ken in Princeville December 2, 2020 4:56 am Reply

    Doug, that is a very narrow view and does great harm to the failing Hawaii economy. Realize the visitors have already stepped up and purchased testing prior to coming, meaning they are far safer as a population than those untested on island. Doubling the test cost on the visitor is excessive, and the state can easily pay for this added cost from the TAT revenue the visitors pay, not to mention the overwhelming boost to the local economy and boost to employment by the visitor on-island spending. There has to be a balance here for the people of Kauai to make it through this without economic calamity.

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