LIHU‘E — Tuesday marks the county’s return to kama‘aina travel and starts renewed options for those staying at a resort bubble property.
In early December, the county suspended its participation in the state’s Safe Travels program which allows travelers who provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival to bypass a state-mandated 10-day quarantine.
Starting today, Kaua‘i is allowing the use of the program from those arriving from another island, regardless of residency. Out-of-state travelers, who spend at least three days on another island, will also be allowed to participate in this program with an additional test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Lihu‘e.
“If an out-of-state traveler arrives on O‘ahu at 8 a.m. Monday, he can take a pre-travel test from a Trusted Partner after 8 a.m. Thursday,” Mayor Derek Kawakami explained on Monday. “Once he receives a negative test result, the traveler can fly to Kaua‘i any time within 72 hours of taking that test.”
These tests, required for anyone 5 and older, must be through one of the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners and uploaded to the Safe Travels app prior to boarding a flight.
If a trip to another county is made after the test is taken, the test will become invalid, according to the county’s rules.
“We have different quarantine rules for inter-island travelers and out-of-state travelers at this time because of the significantly different risks,” Kawakami said on Monday. “COVID-19 disease rates are many times higher on the mainland than in Hawai‘i, and therefore the risk is higher. Our rules recognize the different risk levels by adjusting the quarantine requirements.”
The state’s mandatory 10-day quarantine is effective until Feb. 20 through Gov. David Ige’s latest emergency proclamation.
From Oct. 1-14, inter-island travel was minimal, with zero arrivals coming onto Kaua‘i daily, according to the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism visitor statistics. With the launch of Safe Travels on Oct. 15, numbers rose, peaking at about 600 inter-island passengers per day arriving onto the island.
Then, while participating in Safe Travels in November, the county saw between 327 to 1,475 inter-island arrivals per day.
The county then suspended the Safe Travels program Dec. 2, after reporting an uptick in travel and community infections.
Excluding the first of the month, the county has seen inter-island arrivals from zero to a high of 96 per day in December, according to the state’s visitor statistics. On the highest day of Dec. 1, 2020, the state reported 1,004 people flew in.
In December 2019, the county saw between 1,280 to 3,419 fly in every day of the month.
Since the start of 2021, between 47 to 90 people flew onto Kaua‘i via another island. That’s about a 97.3% drop.
Resort bubble quarantine
Last week, Ige also approved the county’s Enhanced Movement Quarantine resort bubble program, which also starts today.
Travelers participating in the county’s Enhance Movement Quarantine program will need to have gotten a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival. After a three-day quarantine, these travelers may take a post-travel test to be released.
“This program is independent of the state’s Safe Travels program,” Kawakami said, “so tests can be any COVID-19 diagnostic test, including antigen or PCR test, with an emergency use authorization from the FDA.”
Outside of these programs, travelers will be subject to the full 10-day quarantine without a post-travel testing opportunity, Kawakami said.
Residents may quarantine at home.
“We realize the Resort Bubble program is tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents,” Kawakami said in a press release when the rules were approved. “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.”
New arrival form
A new Kaua‘i Arrival form is required for individuals that are participating in a 10-day quarantine, staying at an enhanced movement quarantine property, those who have received modified quarantines or have a state exemption.
Those using the Safe Travels program are exempt. It’s instantly submitted, a county spokesperson said, “But if you can complete the form digitally by the time you arrive, it will save you time during the arrival screening process.”
The information will be used by law enforcement as a digital record of accommodations for quarantine compliance checks, as well as ensuring the property is not a vacation rental. Travelers subject to the quarantine may not rent a vehicle or stay in a short-term rental until after the quarantine period.
Forms are required for each arrival and individual, including children and minors and will be reviewed by the Kaua‘i Police Department and Hawai‘i National Guard upon arrival.