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Safe Travel Program to be tweaked

HONOLULU — The State of Hawai‘i’s Attorney General Clare Connors confirmed that Gov. David Ige will follow the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine recommendation of 10 days instead of 14 days in an emergency proclamation next week.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Connors addressed questions from the House Committee on Labor & Tourism and the Committee on Transportation and went over what a passenger with a vaccine exemption may do while vacationing in Hawai‘i.

“It’s a limited modified quarantine order,” Connors said. “It gives the visitor the ability to move around our state, otherwise you have to stay in your hotel.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green explained the Safe Travel program’s vaccine exemption plans further.

“The moment that people are vaccinated with their shots, they should be able to travel,” Green said. “Nationally, it’s going to be a small number, but by February and March we will start to see a lot of people being (vaccinated).”

Green pointed out that those with a vaccine exemption would have a different process to follow.

“They will be immune,” Green said. “They will have to check a simple check box on the form…and show some kind of evidence or document from their Health Care provider…or else people will just mark that check box.”

Safe Travel funding a question

Although the Safe Travel Program is in its second month of operating around the state, Major General and Director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) Kenneth Hara said the program is set to run for six months costing the state millions of dollars. The state is still looking for a funding source.

“I can give you the total cost of the Safe Travel Program-from pre-travel, digital platform, web base, public-facing sites through the screening process is 18 million dollars for six months, Hara said. “But you will have to ask Dr. Char for the Department of Health’s contact tracking, which does not include helping those infected with quarantine arrangements.”

Department of Health Director Elizabeth Char did make a short virtual appearance but did not give a presentation.

“As far as Safe Travel I don’t believe we have a whole lot,” Char said. “It has been nabbing at our senior staff more, by helping people find lodging because they have a positive test, and would need to quarantine. Specifically, I would have to go back and take a look at that.”

Stat discrepancies

Since Nov. 30, positive travel-related cases were at 299. C & C Honolulu at 101, Kaua‘i at 58, Maui County at 67, and Hawai‘i at 73, Green reported.

Chair Richard Onishi questioned why there is a discrepancy between what the County of Kaua‘i reporting on positive cases and the state’s reporting.

“Actually there is no discrepancy, the count runs a test on day 4, and we have a small data, and it’s clear, we use their data…they demonstrated 58, so that is the data, I use their data when we were talking about it,” Green said.

Between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7, Green said the state’s surveillance post-test program screened 514,903 incoming travelers, exempted 456,741 travelers, and placed 13,075 in quarantine. Out of those numbers, 158,369 were residents, and 356,534 were visitors.

Green satisfied with results

According to some of the House members, there were several problems with the Safe Travel program that their constituents were facing, with certain partnered testing companies.

“So a lot of our testing partners only go down to age 12, as you know, but the mail-in ones go all the way down and they will walk you through it via Zoom,” Green said. “What we do have are some partners far across the county. They hustle for us, Vault, we hear a lot of positive feedback about them…there are rare incidents when they can’t get the test results in 72 hours.”

Although the members had more concerns regarding the program both Green and Hara said they were satisfied with the Safe Travel program thus far and think Hawai‘i is leading the nation.

“What I failed to mention, the reason Hawai‘i is so successful is primarily because of the actions of the people of Hawai‘i compiling with the guidelines, like wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance,” Hara said. “The biggest cause or threat is social gatherings. You shouldn’t have more than five people in your home.

“We need to hunker down a little longer, a vaccine is on its way,” Hara said.

Green said the plan has been effective so far but in his presentation, he made some recommendations for the Governor to consider.

Green would like the program to increase the pre-test window to 96 hours, from the current 72 hours, add secondary antigen test upon arrival for all passengers in all counties, develop an exemption process for vaccinated individuals and increase mask use.

Kaua‘i issues

Chair Onishi said if Ige allowed Kaua‘i to have a three-day quarantine instead of the 14-day quarantine, as requested, maybe the outcome would have been better for businesses.

“We need to look at our priorities, businesses need assistance. We don’t know what is happening with federal funding…childcare, business, restaurants, schools, there is a lot of need,” House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti said. “We need to a striking a balance of public health and economic recovery.”

Members concurred with Belatti and will focus on balancing protecting the people of Kaua‘i and bringing in visitors safely.

Chair Onishi answered carefully when asked how a Kaua‘i couple was able to board a plane from San Francisco to Lihu‘e last week after receiving positive COVID-19 results.

“We don’t know how they got onto the plane,” Onishi said. “But we will be looking into it.”

The story was updated Thurs. Dec. 10 at 2:15 p.m. with correct information.

  1. I saw a Vampire once December 10, 2020 1:28 am Reply

    Kaua’i is no longer on a tourist run economy. Federal help is Kaua’i. Cares Act. I don’t see any tourist coming to Kaua’i to spend their vacation because of the situation world wide. This would make it harder on the testing for COVID-19. I think Kaua’i has a lot of unemployed people and looking for work or just down and out with credit cards, and no where to turn to. I think the overload is on everyone being in the red ink and no where to go and stuck with more papers. This is a sad thing to see. According to Dr. Fauci, an expert of disease control, it will worsen by mid to late December. And no vaccines will be given until by February of next year. So the outlook of christmas is slim. Look for more COVID-19 CASES to pop up and deaths to happen.

  2. John Moser December 10, 2020 4:16 am Reply

    The program seems to have worked fairly well with the tweeks that have been implemented. With an annual visitor count over 6 million and a population of around 1.5 million wouldn’t it be better to vaccinate all Hawaiian people with a 90+ effective rate vaccine, while maintaining the pretestng. Then even if a visitor slipped through that was positive, the Hawaiian people are protected to a far greater level.

  3. kauaiboy December 10, 2020 6:37 am Reply

    Governor Ige is proposing furloughs for all employees on the state educational system.Get used to it Hawaii. And get especially use to it, Kauai.

    No tourist dollars coming? No income for many businesses and more furloughs on the way, both at the State and County levels.

    “Under Ige’s plan, thousands of public workers would be affected, including teachers, educational assistants, custodians, groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, social workers, university professors, engineers, building inspectors, those who care for our most vulnerable populations, and hundreds of other positions,”

    Following closely behind will be Kauai County workers, as County income diminishes.

    “And it’s not just about workers’ pay and how their spending impacts our local economy; lost work hours during a prolonged furlough will negatively impact all public services provided by the government.”

    Local workers pay spending impacting our economy ? Try NO tourist spending impacting our economy!

    Get Kauai open NOW in the safest way possible, but stop keeping all the tourist dollars in their pockets or going to Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island.

    We are withering on the vine, not just struggling. We are dying from not from Covid but from the destruction of our main economic driver, the tourist industry.

  4. Beeze December 10, 2020 6:52 am Reply

    Moderna announced that after your second dose of the covid19 vaccine you will be immune for 3 months!!! Look it up!! Also, Pfizer announced yesterday that anyone with a health history of allergies should not get the vaccine, because of cases where individuals have gone into anaphlylactic shock, after receiving the vaccine. Truth is a very good thing 🙂

  5. mike December 11, 2020 4:06 am Reply

    Glad to see some common sense being expressed at the state level, to bad we do not see it on Kauai. House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti said. “We need to strike a balance of public health and economic recovery.” Right on! And Green’s proposal to add a secondary antigen test upon arrival for all passengers in all counties, makes lots of sense. Sadly this could have been implemented months ago allowing a much sooner and smoother opening if it were not for the purist who insisted that only the PCR tests be used. The mayor was pushing for a 3-day quarantine and retests but when that was not granted ended up getting a 14-day quarantine instead. Where is the logic in that? According to the counties own records the current 7-day average is one new case per day so why are we still on a 14-day quarantine? The goal should be to have a manageable level of cases, not zero cases. If you expect tourist to come back the 3-4 day quarantine with a second test is NOT the answer. With an average tourist visit of around 7 days no one will come and spend half their time in quarantine. It has been several weeks since the CDC revised its quarantine guidance to 10 days so why are we still at 14 days? Yes, Mr. Green we need an exemption program for those who have been vaccinated, hopefully it won’t take 6 months to get that. And Beeze before giving us the “truth” would you please give us the whole truth not a half truth. The data showed that the Moderna vaccine still had elevated antibodies three months after their second dose, NOT that immunity only last 3 months. With only 3 months of data under their belt Moderna was simply saying that the evidence shows it will be durable.

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