Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state will launch its promised coronavirus pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15, with an aim to restarting tourism in the islands, which have seen visitor numbers fall more than 90% during the pandemic.
As part of the Aloha State's measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, all out-of-state arrivals have been subject to a mandatory, 14-day self quarantine since March 26. With the program, travelers will be able to bypass the quarantine if they test negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival.
The pre-travel testing program was announced over the summer, with an initial start date of Aug. 1, but the plan was delayed twice due to concerns over testing capacity and a spike in Hawaii's coronavirus infection rate in late July and August.
All travelers who do not pre-test must complete the two-week quarantine, which requires the person to stay in their room or accommodations for the entire period unless they have a medical emergency. Additionally, all travelers are required to have their temperature checked upon arrival and complete a health and travel questionnaire.
"The time is right to launch our pre-travel Covid-19 testing program, which is an important step toward reviving our economy while continuing to protect public health," Ige said.
To skip quarantine, the traveler must take a Food and Drug Administration-approved nucleic acid amplification test, a molecular test requiring a nasal swab sample or saliva, no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Hawaii. The test must be processed by a certified laboratory, and if results are not available when the traveler lands in Hawaii, they will be required to quarantine until a verified negative test result is delivered. The cost of the test will fall on the traveler, with state officials saying the tests range from $120 to $140. Details are at hawaiicovid19.com.
In preparing for the launch of the program, the state has partnered with CVS and Kaiser Permanente to offer approved tests. Josh Green, Hawaii's lieutenant governor, is coordinating the pre-travel testing program for the state, including working to add additional testing partners prior to launch.
Since the quarantine went into effect in late March, Hawaii's tourism industry, the largest private employer in the state, has been largely shuttered. In July, 22,562 visitors arrived in the islands, compared to 995,210 visitors who came to Hawaii in July 2019.
"The governor's announcement aligns well with the fact that Hawaii's visitor industry has established protocols to ensure the safety of our residents and workforce, while also welcoming back pre-tested guests safely," John De Fries, the new CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said in a statement.