As more questions and concerns about the state’s pre-travel testing program have surfaced in recent days, Lt. Gov. Josh Green yesterday defended the program, which is set to start in a couple of weeks.
Beginning on Oct. 15, trans-Pacific visitors wanting to avoid a 14-day quarantine must show a negative COVID-19 test. The test has to be taken within 72 hours before the visitor arrives.
But some have questioned if the program will do enough to protect the health of residents.
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino say they want visitors to take a second COVID test after they arrive.
The lieutenant governor says testing visitors a second time won’t be feasible.
"Right now, the most tests we have is 4,000 tests in a given day. We’re going to have soon 8,000-7,000 travelers a day. If we required a second test statewide. I’m not arguing against it – I’m just saying what the reality would be. If we mandated a second test, all 8,000 of those individuals would have to get a test," Green said.
"That would exceed our capacity, starting on the fourth day after our program started by 100%. It would also be very challenging in other ways. Logistically, very hard to convince people to go get a second test because you’re not allowed to legally require a test."
Green says an additional test would also keep visitors away from the islands that require it.
The state is partnering with Walgreen’s, CVS and Kaiser Permanente to conduct the pre-travel COVID-19 tests.
Several airlines are also offering the tests to Hawaii-bound passengers, with some allowing mail-in tests.
Up until now, the state hadn’t approved mail-in tests but Green says that’s changed.
"The governor decided, and I think it was very smart, to make sure that any tests that are mail-in are observed. In other words, someone checks that it wasn’t someone messing around – or just putting it in there without even swabbing. The test that Hawaiian [Airlines] has partnered with, as have the other airlines partnered with mail-in, are observed tests," he said.
Green acknowledged the pre-travel testing will have issues – but he says the program is needed.
"Will it be perfect? No. But it will greatly decrease the number of cases. Will this decrease the number of travelers with COVID coming into Hawaii? Absolutely, yes. And keep in mind, right now nobody is getting a test before traveling. They’re going into quarantine. And then they’re breaking the rules and skipping out on quarantine. So really, we’re trying to add an extra layer of security. I’m optimistic that this program is going to work very well. If there are glitches, we’ll readjust."
Green says the program is the first step in restarting the state’s economy, and helping local families.
He added more details about the program will be announced next week.