Hawaii County’s trans-Pacific post-arrival testing program has been extended another 10 days.
Testing will continue at both the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole and the Hilo International Airport through May 10. The county’s program has been in place since the state debuted the Safe Travels Hawaii program Oct. 15 of last year.
“In an effort to support the state’s travel initiatives while continuing to provide safeguards for our community, we have decided to extend our post-arrival testing program an additional 10 days,” Mayor Mitch Roth said in a statement. “Our program has been extremely successful thus far in keeping our numbers some of the best in the nation. However, as we continue to see an incredible amount of travelers arrive who have been completely vaccinated, we feel that it is now safe to transition out of the post-arrival testing program completely.”
Originally slated to be phased out by May 1, the extension through May 10 will allow for a transition to the state’s debut of a vaccination exemption program starting May 11 for inter-island travelers. Two weeks after their final dose, inter-island travelers who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to bypass quarantine and a COVID-19 test under the new rules.
“We don’t really want to confuse folks when the new program starts at the airport,” said Cyrus Johnasen, public information officer for the mayor’s office. “We think that it’ll cause less confusion and be easier for our travelers and our kama‘aina to get back and forth.”
Johnasen said the county will spend $378,600 for the 10-day extension, using disaster funds to cover testing costs. Hawaii County’s disaster funds have been used to cover testing costs since April 1, when a partnership between private philanthropist donors and Premier Medical Group concluded.
Moving forward, the mayor’s office hopes to increase their focus on vaccination efforts.
“We’d like to encourage our residents to continue with their social distancing practices,” Johnasen said. “Go out there and get vaccinated; protect yourself and the community.”