Lots of questions surround Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program
Honolulu, HAWAII — Hawaii residents Julie Folk and her husband haven’t seen their four grandchildren since they left Honolulu in early March. Each time they rescheduled their flights, quarantine orders were extended.
“We feel like we’re stuck here and we can’t come home,” Folk said by phone from Colorado, where she and her husband typically spend a few months a year.
Residents like Folk and hopeful visitors eagerly await more details about a state plan that would lift quarantine rules for them if they provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The option is slated to become available Aug. 1, and many people are already booking flights.
Logistical details of the plan are being worked out, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Tuesday, including whether or not to require tests be conducted within three or five days of departure.
But the same standard — proof of a negative molecular-based test — will be held for returning residents and tourists alike to avoid the two-week quarantine rule. If test results do not come back before departure, the travelers will be expected to quarantine until they receive a negative result, he said.
Despite the surges in cases in several states such as California and Texas, Green remained optimistic that an array of testing partners, along with improved turnaround times of tests will make the feat possible.
“We’re in deep discussions with national pharmacy agencies and labs to get everyone willing to participate on board,” he said. “We’re working through the details to get as much availability as possible. The level of detail is quite extraordinary, actually.”
The recent $90 million state funding package for Hawaii airports will also help assist other “layers” of screening, including temperature checks, thermal screening and an electronic records keeping system for health questionnaires.
That, coupled with enhanced testing capacity, more contact tracers and public cooperation with physical distancing and mask-wearing will help put up a COVID-19 shield, Green said.
A federal judge on Friday let stand Gov. David Ige’s authority to impose a 14-day quarantine on passengers arriving in Hawaii in a move that protects his plan to reopen the state’s tourism industry with a number of safeguards designed to protect residents and travelers.
Ruling in the state’s favor, U.S. District Judge Jill Otake said the U.S. Constitution allows Ige to take extraordinary steps to protect public health and safety, even if the actions implicate certain fundamental rights.