HONOLULU – About 8,000 people landed in Hawaii on the first day of a pre-trip screening program that allowed travelers to go to the islands without being quarantined for two weeks if they could undergo a negative coronavirus test.
Angela Margos was among the first passengers in San Francisco to board a plane bound for Hawaii Thursday morning.
“Vacation, peace of mind,” said Margos, a nurse from San Carlos, California, why she was flying to Hawaii. “I need time to rest, to rest.”;
The new testing program is an effort to prevent the severe collapse of Hawaii’s tourism-based economic pandemic. Officials cited the mandatory quarantine rule as an integral part of Hawaii’s early success in maintaining coronavirus.
But gaps in the pre-travel review program along with the increase in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. have asked about whether Hawaii is willing to safely accept returning vacationers.
And when local restrictions are reduced before the summer holidays, the spread of the disease community has climbed to alarming levels, forcing second-order home orders for residents and closures for unnecessary business.
Margos was run over taking his test. He first did this at the hospital where he works, to find out that it was not an approved site for United Airlines and the state of Hawaii. He then paid $ 105 for a drive-thru test, but was later told that there was an error in that test.
Margos finally paid $ 250 for a quick test result Thursday at the San Francisco airport, which turned negative.
Opponents of the trial program said a single test 72 hours before arrival – especially if coupled with the option to fly without trial and still quarantine – was not enough to keep the residents of the islands safe.
Kathleen Miyashita and her husband were among those who arrived in Hawaii on Thursday without trial. They said they plan to quarantine their family farm on Oahu.
“We chose to do the 14 day quarantine,” Miyashita said. “We have no issues with having food brought. It is like a quarantining haven in terms of having fresh fruits and vegetables at home.”
He said he and his wife were “not really” worried about being asymptomatic carriers of the disease.
“We’re traveling, and we’re just being careful,” he said, adding that they had already made a quarantine in Hawaii about two months ago.
Hawaii’s economy is almost entirely around tourism, and local families who depend on the sector to survive have to go back to work.
More than 100 of Hawaii’s approximately 4,000 restaurants, bakeries and caterers are permanently closed and more than 50% predict they will not survive in the coming months, officials said.
Monica Toguchi Ryan, whose family has owned and operated The Highway Inn restaurant on Oahu for more than 70 years, said the lack of tourism is contagious.
“The restaurant and service industry has suffered greatly during this pandemic,” Toguchi Ryan said. “Restaurants have not received any federal relief since the spring and are struggling to pay their costs. Some restaurants are completely closed, unable to pay their rent, food supplies and staff salaries.”
Toguchi Ryan joined Democratic Governor David Ige on Wednesday to talk about a new restaurant debit card that will give some unemployed Hawaiian residents $ 500 to spend on local restaurants in the next 60 day. The $ 75 million program is funded by the federal CARES Act and aims to stimulate the local economy.
“When restaurants like ours have more customers, we buy more from our suppliers and we put the money back many times into our local economy,” Toguchi Ryan said.
Hawaii, with nearly 1.4 million residents, reported 10 additional coronavirus deaths and more than 100 newly confirmed cases on Wednesday. On Oahu, home to the famous Waikiki Beach and the state’s most popular island, the positive rate is about 4%.
County mayors have criticized the state plan for a single test before flying and want a mandatory second test for all incoming passengers.
Kauai island Mayor Derek Kawakami said last week that his initial proposal for a second trial had been rejected by the governor.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said his province will not opt out of the pre-travel test program in full and will continue to ask all incoming visitors to quarantine within two weeks. Both have different plans now.
The governor said this week that mayors may implement some secondary testing measures on their respective islands, but the cost and logistics of running such programs will be left to the provinces.
The provinces of Maui and Kauai decided to volunteer a second trial for visitors. The Big Island will need a second speed screening on arrival to avoid quarantine visitors. Oahu officials said they wanted to put in another layer of screening but did not have the test capability yet.
The mixed bag of provincial and state rules can create chaos for vacationers who are not properly prepared for various screening requirements, especially those traveling on the Big Island.
“This second test when it comes to the island of Hawaii will provide an extra layer of protection for our community,” Kim said in a statement Monday. “Almost all medical and coronavirus experts agree on the need for more than one test.”
Those who arrive on the Big Island – home to Hawaii’s active volcanoes and the 2018 eruption site that peeps across neighborhoods – will take a mandatory rapid antigen test when they arrive.
Results are available within 15 minutes, and travelers who test negative will not be asked to quarantine. People who test positive are required to immediately get a more accurate PCR test and then quarantine until they get their results, usually within 36 hours.
People who test positive for the state, whether on vacation or at home, need to be isolated and unable to fly until the virus is gone.