HILO — Coronavirus testing of travelers arriving on Hawaii island is expected to continue after the end of February, but official have not yet determined the duration of the extension.
Partnerships between Hawaii County and private philanthropists allowing the county to test trans-Pacific arrivals are set to continue, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday.
"We're still covered for the end of the month, and then after that we'll probably extend the testing," said Cyrus Johnasen, a spokesman for Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. "As for how long we'll extend it, we're not sure yet."
The terms of the continued testing are dependent on the level of funding Hawaii County receives from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress, Johnasen said.
The county will have a better sense of how long post-flight testing can continue after the final form of the legislation is passed and signed by President Joe Biden.
"We'll still be working with our private partners after this month, but we can't negotiate about the testing if we don't know how much money we're getting," Johnasen said.
Former Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim put in place a program in October 2020 allowing travelers to the Big Island to skip two weeks of quarantine if they test negative before and immediately after arrival.
The county has conducted post-flight tests on all trans-Pacific arrivals since December, totaling more than 69,000 tests as of Thursday, with 102 people testing positive for the virus, Johnasen said.
State officials have discussed the possibility of allowing vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine and testing requirements as the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 increases.
Democratic Gov. David Ige's most recent emergency proclamation said the change requires action by the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
Hawaii County will follow the state's lead regarding a vaccination exception, Johnasen said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.