Fauci: Hawaii can reopen to tourists, but should do so gradually and carefully

Updated: Oct. 7, 2020 at 3:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the state prepares to launch a pre-travel coronavirus testing program next week, it’s inevitable that COVID-infected people will slip through the cracks and into Hawaii, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert said Wednesday.

He added that shouldn’t stop the state from attempting to breathe life back into the tourism industry.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, made the comments Wednesday morning during a live talk story session on Olelo with Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

The conversation with Fauci was wide-ranging, touching on everything from mask wearing to the best preventative measures for people in Hawaii to follow.

[Read more: Neighbor Islands not sold on plan to welcome visitors back; Big Island opts out]

But with the state just more than a week away from launching its long-awaited plan to allow travelers to produce negative COVID-19 tests within 72 hours of arrival in order to avoid quarantine, much of the conversation steered toward the relaunching of tourism ― and how to do it safely.

“You have the people who are there saying they don’t want to reinsert COVID into where we live,” Fauci said. “On the other hand, if you don’t open up, the economy is going to crash even more than it is crashing. You can’t throw caution to the wind when you open.”

Fauci added that he understands that many people in Hawaii, and especially those in rural communities on the neighbor islands, may have anxiety about tourists returning to Hawaii.

But controlling the coronavirus will end up being much more about the preventative measures taken in the state than it will be about who comes into it, Fauci said ― especially if you accept one specific thing from the beginning.

“Let me say something that’s reality. No matter what you do, there are gonna be infected people who slip through the cracks. It’s inevitable,” said Fauci. “The critical issue is that since you have such a low level of infection right now, you should be able to handle that.”

With enough attention paid to preventative measures, like mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, Hawaii should be able to reopen.

“I think you can. You can do it gradually and prudently and carefully, you can do that,” Fauci said. “You can get the economy back, and the jobs that are so dependent on people traveling into your state.”

Part of reopening in that fashion, Fauci said, is recognizing that Hawaii already has some unique, built-in qualities when it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus. “It’s much easier to keep a window open in Hawaii than it is in Minnesota in November or December,” said Fauci.

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