HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some inter-island travelers will soon be able to avoid quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19, but Hawaii County is opting out of the program.
Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that travelers flying between Oahu, Kauai and Maui County can forgo a mandatory quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 before arrival.
The program is similar to the one being put together for trans-Pacific travelers.
Over the last several weeks, as the state drew closer to Thursday’s scheduled launch date of trans-Pacific travel, questions swirled about how state leaders ― so anxious to welcome back visitors from the mainland and Asia ― would handle inter-island travelers.
And in the absence of answers, critics frequently joked that it might be easier for an Oahu resident visiting Maui to fly to the mainland and get a test there before then flying directly to the Valley Isle.
But those questions, at least some of them, were answered in a news conference Tuesday, when Ige announced that Maui and Kauai ― but not Hawaii Island ― would let inter-island travelers produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of travel in order to avoid quarantine.
“Kauai County and Maui County will be implementing the inter-county travel testing program on Thursday,” said Ige. But inter-island visitors arriving on Hawaii Island, like those whose flights originated from across the Pacific, will need to quarantine until receiving the results of a post-arrival test.
State officials have long cautioned that the reopening of tourism would not be flawless, but the complexity and island-specific rules of the traveler testing program is triggering concerns.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell also acknowledged on Monday that COVID-positive travelers may still slip through the cracks of state and county testing programs.
Added Lt. Gov. Josh Green: “All the testing in the world, as much as we’d like to believe it, will not stop the spread of COVID."
But success moving forward, says the leader of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, will depend on constant adjustments.
“Clearly we are in an imperfect scenario, but the next few months and years are going to be a series of course corrections that have to be made,” said John De Fries, the agency’s president and chief executive officer.
Success will also depend on the strength of state and county testing programs ― programs, the governor said Tuesday, that were still being improved.
Maui County and Kauai County, for example, were both planning on offering voluntary tests to travelers within several days of their arrival as an added precaution.
And city officials on Oahu say they are working on plans for a post-arrival test that would be administered to anyone who did not take a test prior to their departure and would otherwise have to quarantine upon landing.
Ige says the state is also in the process of spending $30M in CARES Act funds to help buy more tests and improve testing infrastructure ― measures designed, he says, to focus on reviving Hawaii’s economy.