The first day of Hawaii's Safe Travels program allowing visitors and returning residents to skip the travel quarantine if they pre-tested negative for COVID-19 saw over 10,000 arrivals, up from the approximately 2,000 daily passengers in previous days.
The high number surprised state officials, but the larger than expected passenger count could be the result of pent-up travel demand and may moderate in coming days.
Of Thursday's 10,120 interisland and trans-Pacific arrivals, 6,076 tested negative for COVID-19 and bypassed the quarantine, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green's office.
Another 1,401 passengers said they would quarantine for the required 14 days or the length of their vacation, if it is shorter, or are in quarantine while they await their test results.
The quarantine is enforced by county police and the state Department of the Attorney General, but it relies heavily on individual compliance. Violators are subject to a maximum penalty of $5,000 in fines and a year in jail.
In his Friday video update, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the first day of the pre-test program "went reasonably well," although the mayor noted some glitches that the county plans to work on with the state.
"[A] majority of our incoming mainland passengers had taken a COVID-19 test and tested negative, so they were exempt from quarantine," the mayor said.
About 300 were placed in quarantine at Lihue Airport because they opted not to take a test or were awaiting their test results. While waiting, the travelers must self-isolate until they can upload their negative test results to the state Safe Travels digital system.
Kawakami said there were long wait times for processing because many passengers did not arrive with their Safe Travels digital form, which they must complete before leaving the airport.
He reminded travelers of the steps they must follow:
1. Confirm flight arrangements.
3. Once the test results are uploaded and the health and travel questions are answered, the system should provide a Safe Travels Digital Form with a QR code to take to the airport.
4. Those who quarantine will need to fill out a Kauai Arrival Form that will be handed out at the airport.
More information on Kauai travel is available on the county website.
Beginning on Monday, Kauai plans to implement a voluntary, post-arrival test.
The second test, to be given no sooner than three days after arrival on the island, will be free for returning residents who traveled to the mainland. Visitors will be charged for the test but can get gift cards and vouchers to local restaurants and business as incentives to boost participation.
Kawakami said he expects Kauai's COVID case count, which has remained steady at about 60 infections, will inevitably increase over the coming weeks and months.
He urged residents to continue to maintain safe practices by wearing masks anytime they are with people outside of their immediate households, keeping a six-foot distance from others, washing hands regularly, avoiding gatherings and sanitizing their environment.
On Maui, 2,981 passengers were screened into the county on the first day of the Safe Travels program, said Managing Director Sandy Baz during a Friday press briefing. Of that number, 2,614 were exempted from quarantine with negative tests.
Baz said few passengers were ordered into quarantine, and many of those were awaiting test results.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said the state is looking at authorizing additional testing partners to ensure visitors aren't taking tests from those that are not authorized.
Officials are also looking at staggering the incoming flights to avoid the backup of passengers that Maui and other islands experienced.
The county has implemented a voluntary, post-arrival test 72 hours after arrival on Maui. He said the second tests have been setup on Lanai and are being established on Molokai.
Maui County is also waiving the quarantine and pre-test requirements for residents needing to travel interisland for same day or overnight medical reasons. They will need to show their flight itinerary and letter from the doctor noting their appointment to the airport screeners.
More information is on the county website.