The state plans to allow incoming travelers from out of state who have tested negative for the coronavirus to avoid quarantine as of Oct. 15 — but visitors seeking a family vacation might have to look elsewhere.
Gov. David Ige acknowledged Monday that the state’s partners in a COVID-19 testing program for trans-Pacific travelers won’t test children younger than 12.
On a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook Live program, Ige said untested children of families who arrive in Hawaii after the state’s planned reopening on Oct. 15 will be subject to a 14-day quarantine, even if their parents arrive with a negative test.
“We are focused on enabling more trans-Pacific travelers to come,” Ige said. “It won’t be the ideal situation. It’s not going to be accessible to everybody who wants to travel.”
“Families trying to travel on this pre-travel testing program will have a difficult time trying to find someone who will be willing to administer the test,” he continued.
Ige has said the state has contracts with pharmacy chain CVS and health care provider Kaiser Permanente, and Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a physician, also has mentioned the drugstore chain Walgreen’s as a partner.
The program, as planned, would allow incoming passengers from out of state to avoid quarantine if, prior to travel, they tested negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival in Hawaii.
“We will continue to expand the testing program, hoping that the partners will be willing to test children,” Ige said. “But they’re not willing to do that at this point in time, so we’ll work with what we can and continue to expand the program as we move forward.”
According to Ige, those who take tests within the allotted time window but don’t receive test results prior to arrival will have to quarantine until negative test results are confirmed.
“A lot of those details are currently being worked through,” he said. “… We do have this digital platform and the app that people would input their data. Right now, they’re doing that as part of the quarantine. We are making modifications to that, so that … once they get their result, they would be able to update and input that information into the system that we’re building, so that we would be notified that they got their test result after arrival.”
The governor said that despite international restrictions on travel to the U.S., he’s still working with the governments of Japan, South Korea and New Zealand to get an exemption for Hawaii. He added the state is trying to identify COVID-19 testing partners for prospective travelers from those countries.
Ige said he’s not ready to lift the 14-day interisland travel quarantine. Currently, any traveler from Oahu to any neighbor island must quarantine, as well as travelers between neighbor islands. There are no restrictions on travelers from any neighbor island to Oahu, except upon return for round-trip travelers.
According to the governor, “limited testing capacity in the state” is the major roadblock to nixing the restrictions on travel between islands.
“Back in January, it was common for us to have 25,000 interisland trips … per day,” he said. “And, clearly, we only have the testing capacity of about 5,000. We are looking to expand that, but we have really limited testing capacity. And that comes into the equation about interisland pre-travel testing.”
Oahu is still under a partial lockdown instituted by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, with Ige’s blessing, in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. The lockdown, unless extended, is in effect through Wednesday.
Ige didn’t disclose what might be planned for the state’s main population center beyond then, although he did acknowledge “case counts have been coming down” but not “as quickly as we had hoped.”
“When the case counts surged, we had to reassess, you know, because our hospitals were filling up with COVID patients and there was a real concern about the health care system being overrun. And so that caused the shutdown,” he said. “And now, we are looking at and being more thoughtful about how we can identify those activities that are highest risk, and really ensure that we discourage them, and really looking at the economy in a way that continues to protect the public health.”
Perhaps seeking to temper expectations, Ige said he wanted to be clear that travelers to Hawaii, at least for the foreseeable future, should expect “a limited experience.”
“We want to make sure that are partners are informing those who might be traveling that … it’s not the pre-COVID Hawaii, where we have thousands and thousands of visitors here,” he said. “Many businesses will still be on reduced schedules, (and) restaurants will not fully be open. So it will be a very different experience, and we want to make sure that those who choose to come here will understand that, and not expect full access to the attractions that they would’ve gotten had they came in January of this year.”