How to restart tourism? Lawmakers push the idea of requiring negative COVID-19 tests

Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 6:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii lawmakers are discussing multiple potential initiatives aimed at safely restarting tourism, including requiring that visitors test negative for COVID-19 to avoid quarantine.

The Transportation Security Administration might also start checking the temperatures of travelers before boarding.

State leaders are still in the talking phase.

However, there is broad consensus that pre-flight testing is the only way to revive Hawaii’s tourism industry while keeping the virus out.

“We just got to start testing,” said state Rep. Gene Ward.

Ward said he got word from the White House on Wednesday that the state can require travelers to show a negative coronavirus test before they board a flight to avoid quarantine once here.

Ward said it will be a “new norm” — like showing your ID and boarding pass.

Tests would be done before passengers depart at no cost to the state.

“Go to CVS, go to Walgreens, get your test, give it to the airline, you’re in great shape,” he said.

Travelers say they would be happy to take a test to avoid quarantine.

“I definitely see the statistics and the science of a second surge,” said Valerie Cazedessus, who was traveling from Utah. “So, I think being able to have the testing and test people right at the airport, would definitely help. Make it quicker so we know if we’re sick instead of the 14 days.”

In addition, state transportation officials have volunteered Honolulu’s airport as one of 12 test sites for the TSA to do temperature checks before flights.

“If we can be one of the test sites and they go ahead and put these cameras in all the TSA checkpoints, then I don’t have to use the COVID money,” said Ford Fuchigami, administrative services officer for the state’s Department of Transportation airports division.

“If I can get TSA to do the program basically on the outbound, then I can just concentrate on the inbound basically save some money there.”

It is unclear exactly how much money could be saved.

Right now, the state is planning to spend $36 million in CARES Act funding for thermal screening cameras.

Hawaii News Now reached out to the governor’s office for comment Wednesday evening, but did not receive a response.

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