More than a month after tourism relaunch, mayors say traveler testing program flawed

Mayors say state’s pre-travel testing program is flawed

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A month after Hawaii reopened to trans-Pacific travelers, several county mayors say they’re concerned the program isn’t doing enough to keep people safe

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami sent a pair of proposals to the governor Wednesday asking for stricter rules when it comes to travelers.

One proposal would require travelers to upload their COVID-19 test results prior to departure, meaning no one can fly with a pending result.

The other proposal would require a second negative COVID-19 test three days after arrival.

“At times it can get frustrating as mayor because it feels that I’m being stepped in front of as far as being able to govern and lead this island,” Kawakami said.

“Amongst the mayors, the governor and the lieutenant governor, I think I can make the case that I know Kauai the best and I should be able to lead this island.”

Kawakami said since the start of the state’s Safe Travels program, at least nine travelers boarded flights to Kauai with pending results only to learn they were positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.

He said at least 15 others tested negative before departure, then positive after arriving.

All four new cases on Kauai this week were travel-related — the traveler either tested negative on the pre-travel test or had a pending result and received a positive result after arriving.

The island currently has 13 active cases. Last month, it had zero.

The other mayors say similar scenarios have occurred in their counties as well.

“I have to say as mayor this is deeply concerning, particularly as we see the surge, the wildfire spread of the virus on the continent,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“Therefore, we have risk because we don’t know if the pre-test program is actually working.”

This week, the governor told Hawaii News Now the positive traveler tests are manageable.

“As long as we were able to identify them, test them and get them isolated, we know that it would not pose a very large health and safety risk to our community,” Gov. David Ige said.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said he would support similar proposals for Hawaii County. Additionally, he wants people traveling for essential work or activities to provide a negative COVID-19 test as well.

“They’re doing their business, including medical, including construction, including harbors, you name it, but they’re obviously just as vulnerable to this virus and just as vulnerable of spreading it,” Kim said.

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino said he asked for similar proposals but was turned down.

“From the beginning I said that I wanted to have every entry into the state must have a COVID-free, negative test before entering our state. But I’ve been told that’s unconstitutional,” Victorino said.

He added that Maui County has sent back more than 150 travelers who arrived on Maui with a negative COVID-19 test that was not from a “trusted partner.”

He said he is working on adding more verified partners to the list.

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