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College students headed home for the holidays run into testing headaches

Updated: Nov. 24, 2020 at 4:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - College students on the mainland who are planning to head back to Hawaii to spend the holidays with family are finding COVID-19 tests hard to find.

And new rules, which require a negative result before departure, are adding to the headache.

Robyn is a student at North Carolina State University.

With just a 72-hour window to get a negative test result to avoid quarantine, she didn’t want to get stuck on her way home to Hawaii on Thanksgiving Day if the test result wasn’t ready.

“I was just like all over place. I was so concerned,” she said.

“I had to stop all school work. Hop on the phone with my parents and what do I do because I want to get home and you also have all these rules.”

There are also delays with some of Hawaii’s trusted testing partners.

On the CVS website, the fine print says it “cannot guarantee a specific turnaround time on lab tests accepted by Hawaii and travelers to Hawaii to make other testing plans.”

“It really feels like a crap shoot,” said Colette Fox, mother of a student at Colorado College.

“It seems like stars have to align for you to be able to secure that testing appointment,” she added.

Gov. David Ige isn’t wavering on the new rules as cases spike on the mainland. “While only a handful of visitors receive a positive test each day following their arrival, it was enough to compel us to make the policy change, especially as more people travel to Hawaii to celebrate the holidays,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green also defended the more stringent pre-travel testing rules.

“We want to keep our COVID numbers very low. We know that out and about in college, you are exposed to a lot of people,” he said.

He says if tests aren’t available, trans-Pacific travelers (including returning college students) need to quarantine for the full 14 days.

“I want them to be patient. Get their test and then come home, but in truth if you can’t get a test then come home and quarantine and be with your family in the house,” said Green.

That’s exactly what Robyn is going to do and plans to wear a mask and shield on the plane rides home on Thanksgiving Day.

“I get home just in time so I’ll hop off the plane go straight home and start chowing down,” she said.

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