HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor on Wednesday extended the state’s mandatory, 14-day quarantine for mainland and international travelers through July.
The decision means the earliest the tourism industry would likely reopen in Hawaii is August.
Gov. David Ige didn’t offer a timeline for when Hawaii would again welcome visitors.
But he said there are significant obstacles to overcome, including how to screen thousands of passengers each day and potentially require them to get tested before they even stop on the plane.
State transportation officials say thermal scanners will be installed at airports statewide starting mid July, and facial recognition cameras should be operating by the end of the year.
At a time when cities and major companies are banning the use of facial recognition because of privacy concerns, officials say the cameras will only take photos of people who have a fever.
“Facial recognition will allow us to recognize people who are exceeding the 100.4 temperature as they walk through the terminal,” Ige said.
Meanwhile, the inter-island quarantine for travelers will be lifted June 16, in a big step toward fully reopening the state.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Ige said lifting the inter-island quarantine will give Hawaii a chance to streamline its system and prepare for the return of tourists.
“Inter-island gives us the opportunity to test our system and make sure we can keep our community safe,” Ige said.
The inter-island quarantine is being replaced with a series of screening efforts in a bid to prevent passengers who may be ill from flying.
Travelers will have to fill out a mandatory form, answer health questions and get their temperatures taken. If they have a temperature above 100.4, they won’t be able to get on the plane.
“Based on what happens during that screening process, they may be offered a COVID-19 test,” said Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors. “This is an important moment. We’re testing out a systems that’s going to be with us for the near future.”
For trans-Pacific travelers, the governor has supported those screening measures. On Wednesday, he also said that state is investigating how to require travelers to get tested before their flights.
“Testing before getting on the plane is one of the key components that we are looking at, and really asking the question of how will we be able to verify who conducted the test,” Ige said.
Pre-testing has been championed by Lt. Gov. Josh Green and a number of other Hawaii experts. A recent University of Hawaii study found that taking temperatures alone would miss up to two thirds of mainland and international passengers with coronavirus.
And that could quickly drive up the number of active cases in Hawaii.
Green told Hawaii News Now that if the state were to see 30 to 50 new cases daily, “we will lose control of the disease” and potentially overwhelm the health care system.