Utter confusion continues to reign in the islands about plans to reopen all-important travel. Just days ago, the head of Hawaii’s COVID response, Lieutenant Governor and emergency room physician Josh Green announced that Hawaii was ready to reopen for tourism in October. Since then he has contracted COVID. That was followed yesterday by his nemesis, Governor Ige, proclaiming that it is not time to reopen and that he is prepared to extend that date yet again.
Hawaii Lieutenant Governor’s team has COVID but says the state is ready to reopen.
Josh Green said he is now symptomatic and has been experiencing “pretty serious fatigue.” That following his testing positive late last week. He remains in isolation in his Honolulu home. Two people in close contact within Green’s office also have the virus. One of them, in his security detail, was in the car with Green when they drove to the airport on the Big Island. Whether they wore masks wasn’t clear to us. He said, “I hope that my experience with COVID actually ends up informing the state.” The health department said that results are pending for others in Green’s department.
Green said last week (pre-diagnosis) that October 1 was the target to hit and that “Sooner or later we’re going to have to bite the bullet.” See Hawaii Travel Now Ready For October Reopening.
Did the head of our Hawaii COVID response practice what he preaches?
“We were wearing masks in the car, except for perhaps when we were sipping coffee… And one of the gentlemen was coughing some… It does show you that if you have to be in a long car ride with somebody where you’re, of course, within 6 feet — that’s a high risk. And you want to avoid that if at all possible.” Green said that he wasn’t concerned about the person coughing, and believed it was related to a chronic condition.
Let’s just say it left us wondering about the safety protocols which were followed. For example, were the windows rolled down to have more air in a car driving with someone who is coughing, and why under those circumstances are you drinking coffee with masks off? We were saddened and surprised to see this from the Lieutenant Governor, who is responsible for leading the state’s response to the epidemic. On the other hand, it does point out that we are all vulnerable.
Hawaii governor says tourism can wait but offers no essential clarification.
The governor said he’d just met with tourism stakeholders and had “talked about what would be required to bring back visitors… “In the next few days, we’ll be providing a better plan for the scheduling of what those dates would look like.”
Beat of Hawaii response, don’t hold your breath; how many times have we heard this before?
So for now, pre-travel testing and post-arrival testing, as suggested last week by Lieutenant Governor Green, will wait. Green said it is ready to launch and Ige said it is not.
Ige also indicated that there may be some kind of “trickle program,” in order to try out pre-travel testing before launching a full-scale restart to Hawaii travel. That will in theory also give travel partners time to get ready. On another island, the mayor of Kauai is still hoping to get resort bubbles approved.
Ige is said to be working on an interisland pre-travel test pilot program. In that regard, Maui’s mayor said, “We are completing the inter-island to be the prelude for the trans-pacific so it the same testing but we’re trying to test it inter-island first to see how effective we can be with it.”
Which testing protocols will be implemented when travel begins?
The original plan for testing was to allow approved COVID tests within 72 hours of traveling to Hawaii in order to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine that has been in effect since March 26.
The testing plan was to take effect August 1, before being pushed back first to September 1, and yet again to October 1. Then last week Green proposed two alternative tracks for testing as follows:
1. 72 hour PCR pre-travel test but testing sites have not been confirmed.
2. Dual antigen tests pre and post-travel. As an option to PCR tests, Green proposed antigen testing within 72 hours of travel and then again in Hawaii within 72 hours of arrival. As you recall, antigen tests provide more rapid results at a lower cost.
COVID rates improving in Hawaii.
Earlier in the reopening delay process, the governor offered various Hawaii virus data as one of the reasons for not reopening. Now, however, Hawaii’s virus reproduction is among the lowest in the US again, whereas last month, it was one of the country’s highest. The governor did not address that yesterday.
Honolulu Mayor Caldwell not in synch with his friend the governor.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is questioning why using pre-travel testing is any more dangerous than using quarantine to reduce COVID spread. He said yesterday at his own news conference, “I would support a pre-travel test program earlier than later… The reason is right now people are coming to Oahu sometimes in the thousands a day with no tests, all agreeing to quarantine, but there’s no guarantee they are quarantining.”
Mayor Kirk Caldwell is widely expected to run against Lieutenant Governor Josh Green for governor in 2022. Current Hawaii Governor David Ige has termed-out.
While Hawaii’s economy plummets.
We shared last week just the tip of the economic catastrophe that is happening here in Hawaii. It’s staggering when you look at the number of layoffs and jobs that have been lost due to the loss of tourism.
Hawaii vacations continue to be canceled.
Without any clarification from the State of Hawaii, and a series of vague delays in both reopening timing and knowing exactly what it will take to reopen, Hawaii visitors are left in the abyss. We are hearing that upcoming holiday and 2021 travel is already at risk and some of that is being canceled. Visitors cannot wait until the last minute to know what is happening. It is unreasonable, and frankly, unfathomable to not offer clarification when the industry is the complete life-blood of the Hawaii economy.