County clarifies Mayor Harry Kim’s decision on pre-travel testing program

  • Mayor Harry Kim

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim has not made a ‘definitive decision’ to opt out of the Oct. 15 pre-travel testing program.

“A definitive decision has not been made yet — it’s forthcoming this week,” Maurice Messina, Kim’s executive assistant and chief of staff, said Tuesday morning.

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Messina said opting out of the pre-travel testing option means that travelers to the Big Island would have to quarantine for 14 days.

“The reason the Mayor opted out was because the science shows that one test has too much risk. We have been told that the one test would catch only 40% of the potential positives, even if Lt Gov Green claims 80%. Even at 80%, the number of positives being introduced to our community is high. A second test after arrival significantly reduces that risk,” Messina said.

By opting out, Messina said the mayor is seeking more time to put into place the second test or even a third COVID-19 test for arriving passengers.

“To do this by October 15 may be a challenge, hence the only choice at the moment may be to opt out. The opt out period would be only the time needed to stand up the 2nd test,” he said. “A team addressing the logistics for the second test is actively working to have this in place as soon as possible. “

The final decision will be made in coordination with the state and other counties.

“The Mayor is still weighing options, whether to hold to the opt out or find an acceptable risk option to opt in. A definitive decision is forthcoming this week based on the information from the team and coordination with the State and other counties,” Messina said.

Kim, reached shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, said he remained in communication with Gov. David Ige, and had received clarification on what opting in and out meant. His decision was to opt out of the “one-test system” in favor of developing another system.

“That one-test system is not just an acceptable risk for the people of Hawaii Island. I will try to see if I can come up with a proposal for a two- or three-test system,” he said. “I am going to meet with people to see if we can come up with an acceptable solution.”

That solution, Kim said, will require that the county not tap into the state’s testing capacity of 6,000 to 8,000 tests per day. Ige on Monday denied Kauai’s proposal to establish a post-travel testing program though the county had secured 15,000 of its own tests before giving the counties permission to opt out.

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Regarding concerns over not reopening Oct. 15, Kim said he understands the community’s angst to restart the economy.

“I realize that and that’s why we are going to see what we can come up with,” he said.

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