Mayor: State’s surveillance testing of trans-Pacific travelers is inadequate

Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday questioned the state’s efforts to conduct surveillance testing of incoming travelers.

Caldwell said surveillance testing was supposed to be conducted at random, testing approximately 10% of trans-Pacific travelers four days after they arrived in the islands.

But the mayor raised issue with the figures presented so far, which indicate just a handful of incoming travelers have tested positive for COVID-19 after testing negative before arrival.

Based on the testing, officials have estimated about 1 in 1,000 travelers test positive after arrival.

In responding to Caldwell’s criticism, Lt. Gov. Josh Green acknowledged that most of the surveillance tests have been conducted on the Big Island and were not always done four days after arrival.

He said some 17,000 tests have been conducted:

  • On the Big Island, 15,931 tests were done and 23 travelers tested positive;
  • Three travelers tested positive after 616 tests were conducted on Oahu;
  • There were no positive tests on Kauai, where 331 tests were conducted;
  • And one person tested positive on Maui, where 392 tests were conducted.

The vast majority of the tests were on the Big Island because the county previously required incoming travelers to take a post-arrival test after landing.

Despite that, Green maintained that the figures are encouraging ― and did accurately represent a representative sampling of incoming visitors.

He added that if the mayor wants to add traveler testing on Oahu, he’s free to do so.

But Caldwell said good data from surveillance testing is key because welcoming visitors back does carry risk, especially as much of the mainland sees unprecedented surges in new COVID-19 infections.

“We’re in an emergency situation. We need to be safer because of the rest of the world is not safe,” Caldwell said. “I just want what was promised. Health and safety is the most important thing.”

On Thursday, there were 75 new COVID-19 infections on Oahu and a positivity rate of 2.8%. The seven-day average for new daily cases on Oahu is 71, with a positivity rate of 2.7%.

This story will be updated.

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