Ready for a Hawaiian vacation? Surf's up, but so are lots of COVID-19-related hassles
Hawaii will be offering an alternative to its mandatory quarantine rule starting next week, but don't pack your swimsuit without knowing the details.
Visiting the islands will still not be as light-hearted as it has been in the past and there are still elements in the plan that need to be worked out.
As of Thursday, the state will allow tourists to forego a 14-day quarantine if they receive negative results for a COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before leaving the mainland. The Safe Travels program was scheduled to start on September 1, but has been postponed due to a surge in coronavirus in the state.
Does Hawaii actually want tourists?
"I want people to come when they are ready to test, know that they are healthy and ready to wear a mask," said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who played a leading role in developing the program, told USA TODAY. "When you do all of these things, we look forward to re-establishing our relationships with old friends."
But he added, "We are very aware of the risk and we are just trying to begin the process of healthy restoration of our economy. We are not pushing for large numbers. We just want to start shaking off the species." Rust."
They need to be tested to skip the quarantine
All visitors aged five and over must be tested in order to participate in the program. And the tests have to be done by certain healthcare companies, including those that have affiliated with airlines.
Travelers should check with their authorized tester that there are no age restrictions if they plan to bring children. Some won't test children aged 12 years or younger, Green said.
Hawaiian Airlines' home COVID-19 test kits can be used on people of all ages. According to Vault Health, a telemedicine provider, children can take a saliva-based test. Major airlines serving Hawaii have made arrangements so customers can participate in the testing program at airports, clinics, or at home, depending on the airline.
Some promise results faster than others. United Airlines will offer a $ 250 quick test at San Francisco International Airport, with results delivered in minutes, not days.
In addition to the airlines and some health care providers, Hawaii-approved tests can also be done at drugstore giants CVS and Walgreens, Green said.
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You have to endure a long flight in a mask
With Hawaii about 2,500 miles from the mainland, passengers must decide whether they are willing to risk the entire travel process - getting to the airport, waiting to board the plane, and traveling itself - without becoming familiar with the virus infect that they already had to prove they didn't have it.
You also need to be ready to sit on an airplane with a mask on for five hours. Parents of young children could face the daunting challenge of holding a mask on a fidgety toddler. Most airlines flying to Hawaii, including United, Hawaiian, Alaska, and Southwest, require them for every child over the age of 2.
"We are fortunate and appreciated that our guests understand the importance of protecting us all by wearing a face mask or cover while traveling, including young children," said Tara Shimooka, spokeswoman for Hawaiian Airlines.
Some islands may not allow the pre-test
The uncertainties include whether individual islands will participate in the test program that allows visitors to skip a quarantine.
Hawaii Governor David Ige said at a news conference last week that he is continuing to speak to the mayor of the big island of Hawaii, who has indicated that he wants to decline the testing program and continue to quarantine visitors for 14 days.
On Monday, Ige turned down a request from the island of Kauai that it would have set up its own testing program upon arrival.
"A single pre-arrival test program alone will not provide the required level of protection for our Kauai community," Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a statement. He said the island had received 15,000 rapid tests and would develop a plan to reduce the spread of the virus.
Green said all mayors will be on board the mainland visitor pre-test program starting Friday. Everyone who travels between islands, whether residents or visitors, has to be quarantined for another 14 days upon arrival.
A surfer walks on a sparsely populated Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. Hawaii's governor says travelers arriving from overseas will be able to bypass a 14-day quarantine requirement starting October 15 if they test negative for COVID-19.
You may be asked to retest in Hawaii
The state says it could ask about 10% of travelers, including children, to take a second COVID-19 test four days after they arrive. The second test is optional, he said, to give the state another way to make sure its efforts are working. Nobody can be ordered to take it.
Why the second test? Since roughly 1 in 1,000 passengers who tested negative on the pre-test are expected to be positive after they arrive, Green said, a number that is believed to be manageable. A second "reference" test can help ensure that these predictions hold true.
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How many tourists are ready to go through all of this?
Even after successfully completing the tests, visitors may not find the lively dining and shopping paradise they expected. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said his city had some of the same conditions as many mainland cities: bars closed, mask requests in public places, and many tourist attractions and activities during recess.
Masks are needed everywhere, even on beaches, when a family is around other people, Green said.
As a result, island officials aren't entirely sure how many tourists to expect at the start of the testing program.
Green expects around 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day to begin "significant increases" in trips in February and March.
The climb could also be long. Due to the quarantine requirement, tourism to Hawaii has fallen off a cliff. Hawaii's daily visitor numbers show a decrease of more than 90% on most days this month compared to the same days last year.
State, airlines go into full swing to resume tourism
The number of people infected with COVID-19 has fallen so low that Hawaii officials feel they can take the risk. The state had more than 13,000 cases and 160 deaths, reports Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracker.
New cases have declined, averaging just 92 a day over the past week, although a daily increase to 155 was reported on Friday and 106 people were in hospitals, Green said.
Governor Ige said he was confident Hawaii could protect residents. In the event of an increase, the federal government will provide 90,000 test kits.
"The goal is to" ensure we can get trans-Pacific travelers back to the islands safely without endangering our community health, "said Ige." But there are thousands of moving parts, and things change every day. ""
And Green said the state has 300 contact tracers ready to go with another 300 in reserve.
With the new program, airlines are expecting more passengers to travel to Hawaii and are poised to improve service. They also include Hawaiian Airlines, which will gradually add Phoenix, Oakland and San Jose over the next month.
Can the plan succeed in boosting and revitalizing the state's economy without letting the coronavirus run wild?
"I am the eternal optimist," he said.
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This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Hawaii Vacation? COVID-19 problems abound as part of a tourist test program
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