LIHU‘E — Those traveling from a neighbor island to Kaua‘i will soon be able to bypass the quarantine by using the state’s Safe Travels program beginning Tuesday, Jan. 5.
To qualify as an inter-island traveler, a flier would need to be physically present in the state for at least 72 hours. This rule is not exclusive to state residents, out-of-staters and resident travelers with at least three days in the state may qualify, too.
The state’s Safe Travels program, which started mid-October, allows travelers to by-pass a state-mandated 10-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel with an approved testing partner.
After a rise in travel-related and community-transmitted COVID-19 infections, the County of Kaua‘i was given permission to temporarily suspend the Safe Travels program in early December for both inter-island and trans-Pacific travel, requiring travelers to quarantine with no test-out option. This is Rule 23.
In a separate Rule 24 approved by Gov. David Ige on Wednesday, those traveling from outside of the state to Kaua‘i may also participate in the county’s independent post-arrival resort bubble program, also effective Tuesday, Jan. 5.
“We realize the Resort Bubble program is tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a Wednesday press release. “Our residents continue to be our highest priority. Now that our community has been able to enjoy the holiday season without a major surge in cases, we feel we are in a good position to loosen inter-island travel restrictions and offer more convenient opportunities to travel between islands.”
Incoming travelers may take a pre-travel test and stay at an approved Enhanced Movement Quarantine resort bubble property. After a three-day quarantine there, travelers will be allowed to seek a post-travel test and be released from the state’s 10-day quarantine with a negative result.
This rule is independent of the Safe Travels program and does not require travelers to utilize a state-approved travel or testing partner. Rather, travelers utilizing Rule 24, are allowed to submit any pre-travel and post-travel test so long as it has received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
All other trans-Pacific travelers not staying at a resort bubble would be required to quarantine the full 10 days at a private residence or hotel property.
Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman explained Wednesday that the county is proposing “different treatment for interisland vs. mainland travelers” as the county’s “recognition” of different risk levels.
“As we have seen, even travelers who take the Safe Travels pre-travel test can develop COVID-19 after they arrive here,” Berreman said during the county’s COVID-19 briefing. “This is why here on Kaua‘i, we have advocated for requiring a second test before mainland travelers are released from quarantine. To protect our community, we need to detect as many individuals as possible who may pose a threat of disease on our island.”
Berreman compared recent infection rates in California to Hawai‘i.
“Even given the difference in population, California’s disease rate is many times ours,” Berreman said. “And that is also the case in many other Mainland states, so it makes sense to be more cautious with mainland travel.”
On Wednesday, the state’s Department of Health reported 108 new cases. California reported over 9,000 new cases Wednesday and 46 deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the mainland continues to increase, with the number of cases this month nearly double the rate in November,” Berreman said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is just not safe at this time to allow trans-Pacific travel to Kaua‘i without additional safeguards, we hope that will change soon.
“While O‘ahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i Island continue to have cases, the rate of infection is significantly lower than the mainland. With our low rates of disease and frontline healthcare workers and first responders beginning to be vaccinated, this is an appropriate time to allow inter-island travel with a pre-travel test, while continuing to require additional precautions for people who recently traveled out of state,” Berreman said.
Earlier this week, the country reported the first case of COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus B117 strain in Colorado and California. This variant was recently reported in the United Kingdom.
“This strain is more easily transmitted, but it does not appear to cause more serious symptoms,” Berreman said Wednesday. “All the information we have now indicates that the approved vaccines will protect against this strain just as they do earlier strains. Of course, we will be tracking and studying this new strain in order to continue increasing our understanding of its impact.”