Governor urged to rethink new restrictions on pre-travel testing program

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Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 10:26 AM HST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 10:32 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health and business leaders across Hawaii are proposing a modification to one of Gov. David Ige’s new rules governing trans-Pacific travel during the pandemic.

The latest round of restrictions for travelers are set to start on Kauai on Wednesday.

The island will require a 14-day quarantine for all arriving passengers who aren’t essential workers after county leaders opted out of the state pre-travel testing program.

But the combination of Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s decision and Ige’s move to prevent passengers arriving in Hawaii without COVID-19 test results in hand is drawing concern.

The House Committee on COVID-19 suggested Monday that travelers who comply with the 72-hour pre-travel testing process but don’t have a result in hand prior to boarding the plane should be able to take an arrival test and remain in quarantine until they have the results from both the mainland and arrival test.

That way, they say, travelers would not be as disincentivized from flying to Hawaii.

Mufi Hanneman, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Industry, says the governor’s new policy is discouraging travelers from visiting the state.

“One major hotel, for example, said in the past eight days 10,900 room nights have been cancelled,” said Hanneman. “That translates to $2.5 million in lost revenue.”

Kawakami proposed a similar operation at the launch of the safe travels program, but was told the county would have to foot the bill.

“Having the visitor pay for that test was not an option, the only option was that the counties would have to pay for the tests if things have changed,” said Kawakami.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell argued that post-testing would reduce the heavy burden already on HPD for quarantine enforcement.

“They cannot make calls three times a day, and knock on doors three times a day and they’re doing more spot enforcement,” said Caldwell. “But that gets more difficult as more people are forced to quarantine.”

“One of the things that at least I took away from this meeting is that it’s not clear that we are on the same page, across the counties on the success of this program,” said Carl Bonham, the executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization

Kawakami has maintained that he knows what’s best for his island, and that each mayor should have their own say on travel rules to each county.

But House Speaker Scott Saiki believes the governor should set a statewide standard for travel.

“The mayors may feel like they’re left to their own devices that they’re somewhat isolated, like they’re operating within their own silo.,” said Saiki. “So, I’m not sure you know, I think it’s something that we need to look at, to what extent is the lack of direction from the state government contributing to, you know, possible overreaction by the counties.”

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