Ige has no plans to ease testing rules for visitors, despite calls to do so from tourism industry

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Updated: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Hawaii’s visitor industry slow to rebound, tourism and business leaders are asking the state to modify its pre-travel testing program to make it easier for visitors to come. The response from the governor so far: That’s not going to happen.

Hotel industry officials said the recent surge of the virus on the mainland has made it difficult for many travelers to get tested. And many who do get tested don’t get their results in time.

“We know of folks who were turned around and went back to the mainland because of that,” said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association.

“They tested with a verified partner and were told to quarantine.”

Former hotel industry executive Keith Vieira agreed.

“We’re watching the bookings and it’s not growing. With every new booking, there’s a cancellation,” said Vieira, who head KV & Associates.

“We’re talking hotels running 20% (occupancy) and having 25% of their workers there.”

In a Dec. 17 letter, the Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and 22 other business associations and airlines asked the governor to loosen some testing rules.

They want visitors to be able to take a test within a four-day window of travel instead of the current three days. And for those who don’t get their results back in time, they want them to be able to take a second test at city’s mobile testing lab at the airport.

But during a news conference Tuesday, Gov. David Ige said the current system is working.

“We continue to evaluate the program. We are not planning any significant changes in the program at this point in time,” he said.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, who has overseen mass testing events in Hawaii and on the mainland, agreed that with new infections surging on the mainland it’s not the time to loosen the restrictions on testing.

He favors the Big Island model, which requires a negative result taken three days before flying and a second follow-up test upon landing.

He estimated that in December alone, the testing system on the Big Island prevented 200 to 400 people from being infected.

“You do not want people on a plane or people flying infecting other individuals or walking through airports who knowingly have the disease,” he said.

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