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Reopening day one: Small hiccups at Lihu‘e Airport

LIHU‘E — On Thursday, 697 trans-Pacific and about 600 interisland travelers landed at the Lihu‘e Airport, the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported Friday.

The long-awaited reopening of the state comes with allowances for incoming travelers to bypass a still-mandated, 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival with a state-trusted partner and the implementation of the Safe Travels Digital Form, an entry program the state prides as the most rigorous available.

Friday, Mayor Derek Kawakami reported small hiccups at Lihu‘e Airport, like passengers arriving without a Safe Travels form, which made wait times lengthy.

“There were some glitches and gaps that we identified, and we are working with the state to resolve those issues,” Kawakami said.

“Overall, it went reasonably well, and we successfully screened approximately 1,300 passengers on Wednesday.”

Passengers were screened by Robert’s Hawai‘i contractors, Hawai‘i National Guard members, the Kaua‘i Police Department and the county’s Incident Management Team from the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency.

Most of the passengers had received negative COVID-19 results and were thus able to bypass the quarantine.

About 300 of these passengers had opted out of the pre-travel test or had not received results and were placed into quarantine until a negative result is posted onto the Safe Travels platform.

“Those subject to quarantine are prohibited from renting a vehicle or staying in a TVR (transient vacation rental, or short-term rental), per the governor’s emergency proclamation,” Kawakami said.

Those subject to quarantine must also fill out a Kaua‘i Arrival Form that is provided at Lihu‘e Airport.

KPD is currently monitoring about 1,700 people on travel-related quarantine, “the majority of whom are people who travel here for work, meaning they quarantine with the exception of traveling to and from work,” a KPD spokesperson said Friday.

“Most, if not all, of the visitors who arrived on island yesterday completed their requirements and did not require quarantine,” the spokesperson said.

The Safe Travel program and more information on trusted test partners can be found at hawaiicovid19.com

Post-travel testing

“One of the safety issues we are most passionate about is creating a second, post-arrival test for incoming travelers,” Kawakami said.

“While Kaua‘i’s mandatory post-arrival test program was denied, we continue to push a voluntary post-arrival test program for our trans-Pacific travelers.”

The “Rest, Test, Enjoy!” program asks that travelers take a COVID-19 test three days after arrival.

Tests can be taken at the American Medical Response testing site in Lihu‘e, with walk-ins welcome weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

The county is offering free testing for returning residents.

Mainland visitors will be charged for the tests, but will receive gift cards and vouchers for local restaurants and businesses.

The county purchased 15,000 rapid, same-day COVID-19 tests using $1 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for the kits.

”Staying in quarantine for 14 days after travel is the best way to contain the disease, but the second-best option is to take a post-arrival test no sooner than three days after arrival,” Kawakami said.

“While additional testing helps us to detect disease early, we know our case numbers will inevitably increase over the coming weeks and months.”

More information on post-travel testing can be found at kauai.gov/visitorposttest.

Who arrived

Thursday, 8,219 people who flew into the state, HTA reported. On Oct. 14, for comparison, 1,971 people flew into the state, and only six into Lihu‘e. Four of those were crew members, one visiting family and one vacationer.

On Kaua‘i, the majority of out-of-state passengers, 407, self-identified as here for “pleasure or vacation.” Fifty-nine were returning residents, and 28 intended residents.

In 2019, some 10,424,995 visitors came to the state, a 5.4% increase from the year before.

The state has faced backlash the past six months with the implementation of a two-week quarantine for incoming travelers, which effectively shut down the state and devastated tourism, the state’s leading industry.

The first eight months of 2020, total visitor arrivals decreased 69% from a year ago, according to HTA.

Across the state, 3,189 passengers who arrived on Thursday identified as being here for vacation, and 74 to get married or enjoy a honeymoon. About 1,600 passengers are here to visit friends or relatives.

Nearly 1,300 passengers said they were returning residents. Intended residents made almost 300 passengers.

Military or federal-government employees made up almost 200 entrants into the state.

About 500 people marked “other” or “other business” when asked for the reason for their visit.

Over 4,900 flyers came into Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, 1,675 into Maui, and 944 passengers arrived at Kona International Airport on Hawai‘i Island.

The state noted that 800 arriving passengers on Thursday did not qualify for the quarantine exemption, possibly flying from outside of the United States, and didn’t get a COVID-19 test before arriving.

Kaua‘i, along with Maui, are allowing interisland travelers to bypass the quarantine with a negative test.

89 new cases; 1 death

Friday, the state Department of Health reported 89 new positive COVID-19 cases and one death on O‘ahu.

The new cases include 21 on Hawai‘i Island and 68 on O‘ahu.

The state currently has 328 active contact tracers, and 507 on reserve.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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