Update as of 12/16/20. Questions arose in an interview between Governor Ige and reporters that took place on Friday. Plus, we have received hundreds of more comments at Beat of Hawaii (BOH) from those who have canceled or are considering canceling Hawaii travel due to the uncertainties of complying with the Safe Travels rules.
Despite wide-ranging requests from stakeholders, the governor now appears distinctly disinclined to change at least one of the two most criticized aspects of the current Safe Travels rules. Read on for the details in seven key areas, together with our take. No one knows right now what the governor is thinking. Even his friend, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, can’t seem to find out.
1. Remove 14-day when through no fault of a visitor, results from Hawaii trusted testing partners do not arrive in time for Hawaii arrival.
BOH says: Not happening.
Ige said for the first time that he does not intend to change the current plan. As you recall, without buy-in from stakeholders, Ige already changed it once, from visitors being able to get out of quarantine when results arrived to now being forced to quarantine 14-days or return to the mainland.
Lori, a Beat of Hawaii reader, just said, “After doing everything right with Safe Travels and crossing our fingers, we were sitting in the parking lot of airport with bags ready to check when no results came (95hrs it took!), and we were forced to cancel 1 hour before flight… We were so disappointed, exhausted, stressed, despondent, and in shock. Some things were refunded, and some things were not, and for no fault of our own!”
But questions remain about the state’s own trusted testing partners whom we are talking about, for tests taken under the terms both the visitors and the trusted partners agreed to. This sends a very confusing message to visitors. The state is using the threat of a 14-day quarantine as a way to try to stop those visitors who haven’t received results before boarding from even trying to come to Hawaii. That since only the federal government is actually capable of controlling interstate travel requirements, including requiring testing.
In rambling comments, the governor said that the state is stuck with those who don’t get results in time and that sometimes, it is becoming impossible to find various accommodations for those people. Ige said those awaiting test results might arrive late in the evening. That is why Ige said he originally changed the policy.
2. Expand the 72 hour pre-travel test period to 96 hours.
BOH says: Unknown.
Hawaii’s COVID testing leader, physician, and Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants the pre-travel test window expanded from the current 72 hours to 96 hours. That, in addition to a second test 3 to 5 days after arrival. It appeared that change was going to happen, but now Green says that he doesn’t think any change is imminent and there has been no word from the governor on this.
3. Reduce quarantine from 14 to 10 days.
BOH says: Yes, that is pending.
Last week Hawaii’s Attorney General said that an announcement reducing the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days would occur this week. When that happens, the quarantine period, when applicable, will be reduced from 14 days to 10 days. Of course, that is of no use to Hawaii visitors whose vacations are on average 7 days.
4. Testing on arrival.
BOH says: Unknown.
At this time, only the Big Island requires testing on arrival. But others want that as well. Questions include whether the state has adequate access to that testing. For some reason, this just keeps dragging on.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, and the county mayors are all in favor of the on-arrival test option. So too is The House Committee on COVID and Hawaii Mega Hawaii-insurer HMSA, which said, “And if you’re negative, you simply stay in quarantine until you get your trusted partner test. And if that’s also negative, then you’re released from quarantine.” Adding to that list is the Hawaii Health Department’s Director, who supports implementing a second test 3 to 5 days after arrival. The largest health care provider in Hawaii agrees with this plan, as well.
5. Quarantine between pre-travel and on-arrival testing?
BOH says: Unlikely.
What rules will be associated with on-arrival testing? In other words, if Ige says (as he has) that the second test will not reduce the mandatory quarantine, we assume those tests will only be for those who have negative test results presented on arrival.
There is no indication of any upcoming change that would implement a quarantine period prior to the second test results.
6. Allow for modifications to Safe Travel on island by island basis.
BOH says: Unlikely.
Ige has made it clear that he is disinclined to allow the Safe Travels program to be defined differently on an island-by-island basis to keep rules clear and simpler. On the other hand, Kauai has opted out of Safe Travels and has a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals.
7. Who pays for quarantine?
BOH says: Unclear.
In theory, arrivals who do not have test results who wish to remain in Hawaii will be under a 14-day quarantine. Ige mentioned in the latest interview that when visitors say they can’t afford it and thus refuse to pay, the state is responsible for paying for all of those expenses. Interesting dilemma.
In that regard, commenter Paul said, “I have an Airbnb rental for 12 days. If I test positive at the airport after arrival and have to quarantine, am I correct in understanding that I can’t quarantine at my rental? How does one find quarantine lodging at that point–does the state help/assign, or are you on your own? Is the cost prohibitive (it doesn’t seem like you would have much leverage at that point)?”
Great question, Paul.