Hawaii Island businesses torn on county’s decision to opt out of traveler testing program

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Updated: Oct. 6, 2020 at 5:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kolby Moser has owned Aria Studios for 12 years.

The Waimea-based company, which specializes in filming weddings and commercials, usually shoots 150 weddings annually. This year, they’ve shot a handful.

Moser had high hopes that the state’s pre-travel testing program would help turn things around.

But now, Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said he’s opting out of the program.

And that’s putting many businesses in a bind.

“The possibility of my business going under is very real and we deal with that week by week,” Moser said. “At this point, it’s been seven months and it doesn’t seem like there’s any plan in place.”

She added that extending the quarantine “is just lazy.”

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce says it was surprised to hear Kim’s decision and is concerned for the businesses who will continue to see losses after already making preparations to resume.

“Businesses have already done that for this Oct. 15 opening date and they’ve already gotten reservations in,” said Wendy Laros, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce executive director. “So the idea of stopping this momentum again is extremely frustrating and is not a good thing.”

But not all business owners disagree with Kim.

Photographer Bruce Omori operates an art gallery in downtown Hilo, where business has been decimated during the pandemic.

Yet, without approval for a second post-arrival test, he understands the quarantine.

“I want to open my business again, but yet, I’m really afraid of somebody being a carrier and being infected with the virus coming in to our gallery,” Omori said.

“So I do agree with Mayor Kim’s stance on this issue.”

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