State says greater testing capacity, digital records on visitors needed to restart tourism

Health officials detail recommendations to lift quarantine restrictions for tourists

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Greater testing capacity, thermal screening machines, digital records on tourists.

Those are among the requests state Department of Health leaders want ahead of Hawaii welcoming out-of-state visitors without a mandatory quarantine.

Pre-travel testing has been discussed a lot as a requirement for tourists, but state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said it won’t be enough.

“I’m just trying to make sure that these travelers are somehow able to be tracked by us,” Park told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19.

The pre-travel testing could be done by a national drug store chain like CVS.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said there are more than 10,000 locations nationwide and the store could verify a negative test before the traveler gets to Hawaii.

Park said once the visitor arrives, screening that includes temperature checks will be done and a questionnaire will have to completed. Park said the form, currently used for inter-island travel, is helpful but she wants it digitized so the information is available immediately should contact tracing need to be done.

Another concern: The lack of tests available. Park said addressing the supply chain issue is the no. 1 priority but admitted it’s a global problem that may not be fixed by local leaders.

In the contact tracing process, hundreds of tests are needed.

In addition to supply, the current capacity of 3,000 tests per day would not be enough.

An example given at the hearing: the Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center required almost 1,000 tests in one day due to an outbreak.

Park said the demand for tourist testing could reduce her ability to deal with new outbreaks in the local population. She asked for a “carve-out that those types of priority testing, that they take precedence over testing travelers.”

Park agreed the current quarantine is devastating to the economy and called the measures draconian but expressed fear about the strain on the system should the state reopen without these measures.

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