Post-arrival COVID-19 testing to continue on Big Island

Post-flight COVID testing will continue on the Big Island after February, although for how long has yet to be determined.

Thanks to ongoing partnerships between Hawaii County and private philanthropists, the county has been able to continue testing trans-Pacific arrivals for COVID-19 through the end of this month.

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Those partnerships will continue for the foreseeable future, said a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Roth.

“We’re still covered for the end of the month, and then after that, we’ll probably extend the testing,” Cyrus Johnasen said. “As for how long we’ll extend it, we’re not sure yet.”

Johnasen said the terms of the continued testing are dependent on what funding the county will receive from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill currently passing through the U.S. Congress. When that passes — which Johnasen said is likely to be around the beginning of March — the county will have a better sense of how long post-flight testing can continue.

“We’ll still be working with our private partners after this month, but we can’t negotiate about the testing if we don’t know how much money we’re getting,” he said.

The previous mayor, Harry Kim, implemented a program in October 2020 allowing travelers arriving on the island to skip the otherwise mandatory two-week quarantine if they tested negative for COVID-19 before and immediately after arrival. Since December, the county has conducted post-flight tests on all trans-Pacific arrivals.

Since beginning the tests, Johnasen said the county has conducted more than 69,000 post-arrival tests as of Thursday morning, with 102 people testing positive for COVID-19.

As the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 increases, state officials have discussed the possibility of allowing vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine and testing requirements.

Gov. David Ige’s latest emergency proclamation mentioned the possibility of such an exception, but added that it is not currently an option and requires action by the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

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Johnasen said the county will follow the state’s lead regarding the vaccination exception, and awaits guidance from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, which he said is expected to come in the near future.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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