HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Responding to criticism in recent days from the mayors of several Hawaii counties, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said Friday that the state’s pre-travel testing program was operating as intended and pushed back against suggestions that the program, intended to keep COVID-positive patients from entering the state, needed to be rebuilt.
“Right now, the system is working,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “I don’t know why people would want to make wholesale changes to a system where we have the lowest rate in the country of COVID, we’ve got the lowest mortality rate in the country of COVID.”
Hawaii is, according to media outlets like the New York Times, the only state in the U.S. where coronavirus is not spreading out of control. But elected officials in recent weeks have offered competing viewpoints as to how best keep it that way.
Mayor Derek Kawakami of Kauai is awaiting approval from Gov. David Ige on his request to withdraw from the state’s Safe Travels program entirely, opting instead to return to mandatory 14-day quarantines for all passengers arriving on the island.
A previous request, to mandate arriving passengers take a second coronavirus test while on Kauai, was denied.
Earlier this week, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell proposed a similar idea as an alternative to an initiative announced by Gov. Ige last week that requires all travelers to have negative COVID-19 tests in hand prior to arriving in Hawaii in order to avoid quarantine.
That measure, which went into effect this week, has drawn criticism from the mayor and other legislators as one that will effectively negate any progress that has been made to restart Hawaii’s tourism industry.
Speaking to Hawaii News Now on Friday, Lt. Gov. Green made clear his belief that other aspects of the state’s coronavirus protocols were more important than the focus on tourism.
“Our surveillance study showed that the rate of COVID for our returning residents was about five times higher than for general travelers who got the test,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “Returning residents, you know, we then go and have our college students come back in, or we see our parents for the first time in while. That’s how we get spread.”
“As the case counts go up on the mainland, and its harder to get a test, it makes it more difficult to travel in here successfully, because the case counts are higher,” Lt. Gov. Green said. “Let’s say, for example, the cases are going crazy with COVID in Texas. Crazy numbers, so you can’t get a test, because there is so much COVID. Then it’s probably not the best idea to be traveling from Texas to Hawaii.”