Today, the House Committees on Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness and on Labor and Tourism met to discuss House Bill 1286, which seeks to unify rules across the state. We listened to the meeting. Oral testimony was received from a range of individuals and companies that included Adrian Kamali’i of The Airlines for America, representing all of the airlines flying to and from Hawaii. See 300 pages of fascinating and revealing written testimony below.
Do you believe there should be one statewide plan for COVID travel, or is it better to continue to permit each island to set its own policy? We want to hear from you below.
Our take on today’s progress was that discussion veered on and off-topic many times. The Bill is to decide if all islands should have the same policy and not discuss what those policies might ultimately be. During the testimony, there was often mention of second tests and quarantine. But again, this Bill is not to make determinations about those, but rather to bring all of the islands under the same policies that are implemented.
Kauai Councilmember Felicia Cowden, the highest-ranking Kauai official during the time we spent on the call, said that Kauai does not want to experience the same issues as on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. She said, “We live calm. In the 6 weeks we were open, we were not. There’s a very strong voice against this. And I share this.” Her comments were very much in line with a recent editorial in the Garden Island written by former Kauai mayor and councilmember JoAnn Yukimura, local physician Dr. Robert Weiner and Chad Taniguchi.
Our take: Returning residents are clearly the more significant issue in Hawaii, not visitors. That according to the Department of Health representatives. Data from the State of Hawaii Department of Health indicates that far more cases of COVID are community spread versus coming from arriving visitors. See the latest Department of Health chart in that regard below. The red indicates community-associated cases and the dark blue at the bottom represents travel-associated non-resident cases.
The Department of Health representative said they have recommended “the addition of a post-arrival test at 3 to 5 days” for all travelers to Hawaii. While not offering 100% protection, it would reduce the number of subsequent positive tests. “Testing supplies are a major consideration here” in terms of Hawaii’s ability to implement post-travel testing. It is unclear to the Department of Health whether there are adequate testing supplies for secondary testing. State Representative Gene Ward also said that additional testing is indicated.
As an aside, the representative from Airlines for America, Adrian Kamali’i, seemed to suggest that only negative travelers were on planes to Hawaii. We know this is not happening yet because it would require the federal government to initiate this type of policy.
Hawaii HB 1286 Testimony.HB1286_TESTIMONY_PDP-LAT_02-09-21__compressed (1)
House Bill 1286 by Scott Saiki, speaker of the House of Representatives.
If HB 1286 passes, the decisions on Hawaii travel, its Safe Travels program, and current and future rules related to vaccination travel will be made for all islands at the statewide level.
This bill also allows for the Hawaii Department of Health to “Establish conditions under which persons may be deemed automatically exempt from the pre‑travel testing requirements and mandatory self-quarantine. Thus that might or might not apply to those who have been vaccinated or determine the age at which children need to be tested.
Notably, HB 1286 says that “This Act shall take precedence over all conflicting statutes concerning this subject matter and shall preempt all contrary laws, ordinances, rules, orders, or proclamations adopted by the State, a county, or any department or agency thereof.”
At present, the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui have each established differing rules.
Visitors find it very confusing at best and ultimately off-putting. You say that in countless comments. Many stakeholders concur. However, counties like Kauai have argued that their limited medical resources must dictate different and more stringent rules. Others disagree, including the largest health care provider and insurance provider in the state. The lieutenant governor has also indicated that visitors are not a significant source of infection. Nonetheless, Gov. Ige acquiesced, and his previous determination not to have island-by-island decisions went by the wayside. See our Hawaii COVID 19 travel guide.
On Kauai, for example, there are currently only two travel options to avoid a 10-day quarantine. The first is a minimum 3-night bubble resort quarantine, and the other is a 3-night minimum stay on another island and retesting before arriving on Kauai.
Otherwise, Kauai has chosen not to participate with the rest of the state’s Safe Travels program. Opting out would no longer be possible if this bill comes to fruition.
Legislature vs. Hawaii Governor on Hawaii COVID travel.
The governor is permitted to create emergency orders for up to 90 days concerning COVID, which started nearly a year ago. We previously checked with Speaker Saiki’s office to confirm our understanding of how this all works. We were told that the governor might issue emergency declarations, including those related to COVID travel, that have a maximum validity of up to 89 days. Those can be extended by the legislature but not the governor. Alternatively, the governor can issue new 89 day orders. That is per the Hawaii State Constitution.
Mahalo for your comments.