It is getting perilously close to October 15. Reopening is good news for many here in Hawaii and on the mainland. Hawaii residents are anxious to return to work, while visitors are excited to be some of the first to visit Hawaii after a long hiatus. What’s at stake is huge, and represents Hawaii’s economic survival. The question is, will Hawaii be ready? Can visitors be made to feel safe making travel plans? What about residents? How too can the travel industry have confidence in preparing to reopen and getting their plans and staffing in place?
With three delays already under the belt, why has Hawaii still not be able to articulate its plan for reopening?
Tourism shareholders continue to voice their concerns about what will be different this time, and just when will the plan be determined and communicated.
Hawaiian Airlines’ Avi Mannis said, “Right now understanding how to get tested is going to be the biggest barrier to people choosing to travel, whether that is locals traveling or visitors.”
The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce CEO said, “We’ve had months to prepare and come up with a comprehensive tourism reopening plan… Setting a date for October 15 is the first step; now we have to make sure that we stay firm to that date. We’ve been told that a little more than half of Hawaii’s businesses can’t reopen until tourism does. We can’t keep moving the goal post when the ball is in the air.”
Today is our next post in a series that examines where we are in preparation to reopen Hawaii travel and what will happen next.
We expect an update from the state later today, and we will let you know as soon as we that happens. Lieutenant Governor and physician Josh Green, the head of Hawaii’s travel testing program, will address questions on reopening. Green is said to have recovered from COVID himself after he believes he acquired it riding in a car with infected staff members.
Questions we’re seeking answers to include the following.
1. Are changes coming to approved pre-testing protocols? We believe that they are. Rapid testing is likely to now be included as an alternative to the NAAT PCR test taken within 72 hours of your Hawaii arrival time. These are cheaper, more readily available, and have about the same degree of accuracy. Those have been approved for emergency use during COVID, but have not had formal FDA approval. Last week, Lt. Gov. Green said he wants two test alternatives, the 72 hour PCR one as well as dual antigen tests taken both (72 hours) pre and (72 hours) post-travel. Antigen tests provide more rapid results at a lower cost.
Then to your comments. Chadd just said “They have had months to figure this out. This opening was originally slated for August 1. So why now are they still trying to figure this out? This is very frustrating being a small business owner. Obviously, the tests are only good for that day it was taken. This will not stop the virus but limit its transmission. There are at least 2 fast tests (15-minute results) that are close to as accurate as the main one being used now and could be used at the airports upon departure or arrival. There are other countries and states using these now. Why is our government so slow in figuring this out?”
2. Tests, tests, tests. Many other details need to be addressed including availability, timeliness, partnerships, locations, and more? We continue to await any news on the touted testing partnerships with CVS and Kaiser. You’ve nailed this in hundreds of comments already. It does not appear that either CVS or Kaiser has a travel testing plan in place at this time. Will they soon? We hope so, but just don’t know. Also, who needs to be tested, including small children starting at what age? There has also been no mention of international arrivals.
On that, commenter David M. just said he “Called CVS in California today and they’re clueless on a rapid COVID test. One rep said they’re not testing now for “travel.” Keith also commented: “Right now local CVS pharmacies have no idea what we are talking about in regards to testing for travel purposes. CVS testing as it stands now still has a 3-7 day wait time for testing results.”
3. What if I get the wrong type of test? It is travelers’ responsibility to confirm they have taken the correct test. What happens if you inadvertently take a non-approved test? Given that there is still no plan for testing on arrival in Hawaii, the result could be returning to the mainland or entering a 14-day quarantine. Is this possible? The issue requires rethinking, clarity, and communication.
4. What are the plans for the removal of the current interisland quarantine? That has not been previously mentioned in planning for October 15. It could happen either before or in concert with that date.
5. Will Hawaii’s plans be adequately scalable to manage both pre-tested and quarantining visitors starting next month? It has been much easier to manage thus far, with only essential flights operating. And won’t be the case when a full range of flights begin operating. That includes airport operations, as well as contact tracing and management.
Please let us know your questions, thoughts, and concerns. Mahalo!
Beat of Hawaii © photo at Kee Beach Kauai.