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Visitors to Hawaii Can Take a Coronavirus Test to Avoid Quarantine—Starting in September

AFAR logo AFAR 7/14/2020 Michelle Baran

a body of water with a mountain in the background: Hawaii Requiring All New Arrivals to Quarantine © Photo by Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock Hawaii Requiring All New Arrivals to Quarantine

This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Hawaii Governer David Ige on Monday announced a new protocol for travelers visiting Hawaii from out of state during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Starting on September 1, visitors to the Pacific Ocean island chain can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to avoid an otherwise mandatory 14-day quarantine that has been in place since March 26.

The quarantine requirement was initially supposed to end on August 1—but has been pushed back one month to September 1. The delay was based on several factors, according to Ige. Among them is the fact that the U.S. mainland is currently experiencing large coronavirus outbreaks including in California, one of Hawaii’s main visitor markets. Hawaii, too, has seen a recent increase in cases, the governor stated. On July 13, the Hawaii Department of Health reported 23 new positive coronavirus cases for a cumulative total of 1,243 cases statewide since February 28, 2020.  

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make. This delay will further hurt our economy, but as I’ve always said—we will make decisions based on the best available science and facts prioritizing the health and safety of Hawaii residents, Governor Ige said in a statement.

How Hawaii’s coronavirus testing will work

Once the coronavirus testing option goes into effect, out-of-state travelers arriving in Hawaii will need to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test (also known as the nasal swab test) prior to arrival on the islands from a testing location that has been approved by the Hawaii State Department of Health. The health department has not yet provided a list of approved testing locations, but travelers will need to furnish evidence of a FDA-approved PCR test that was taken within 72 hours before arrival on the islands.

Hawaii will not be providing testing options for visitors once they arrive on the islands, an option that Alaska offers visitors to that state.

Without the negative test result, passengers arriving from out of state will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.

Hawaii’s quarantine rule

Until September 1, a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine still applies to all arrivals, including both those on private and commercial aircrafts. The quarantine order requires visitors and residents to proceed directly to their designated quarantine location after leaving the airport, where they are to remain for 14 days (or for the duration of their stay in Hawaii, whichever is shorter). For residents, the designated quarantine location should be their home. For visitors, designated quarantine locations would be either their hotel room or vacation rental.

During self-quarantine, residents and visitors are not to go to any public spaces, including pools, fitness centers, and restaurants.

All visitors and residents arriving at Hawaii’s airports will be asked to complete a State Travel and Health form. On that form they must include the location where they plan to stay if they are required to quarantine and acknowledge that they have been presented with information about the requirements for the 14-day quarantine along with its corresponding penalties. Failure to comply is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or up to one year of jail time, or both.

Hawaii is asking those who become ill with a fever or cough to continue to stay in their designated quarantine location, avoid contact with others, and contact a healthcare provider for further instructions on treatment or testing.

The 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for interisland travel was lifted on June 16, but travelers are still required to fill out a travel and health form before boarding an interisland flight.

Additionally, temperature checks will be conducted at airports throughout the state, and anyone with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees or who is experiencing other symptoms will be required to undergo a secondary screening at the airport with healthcare staff.

The new COVID-19 testing option for travelers comes as Hawaii’s tourism industry is still reeling from a lack of visitors. On June 23, three months after Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine order was established, 1,512 people arrived on the islands, up from 421 arrivals on April 23. During this time last year, nearly 35,000 passengers were arriving in Hawaii daily, including residents and visitors, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported.

In Hawaii, beaches, hotels, and restaurants have reopened with health requirements in place

Hawaii has moved into its third stage of recovery—the first two were the stay-at-home order, followed by the safer-at-home order. The current stage is called the “act with care” stage. A number of public health and economic factors are considered for how and when the state enters each stage, and the state can also move back to one of its earlier stages if the public health situation requires that step.

During the current phase, all businesses except for larger venues and clubs have been allowed to reopen, including hotels, restaurants, bars, retail stores, shopping malls, and indoor fitness facilities—most with some kind of physical distancing and additional safety measures in place. On July 9, the Hawaii Department of Health’s food safety branch issued a notice that bars, restaurants, and other food establishments risk having their operations temporarily suspended if they do not comply with physical distancing measures, wearing face masks, and other health and safety requirements.

Beaches on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island are all open. Haleakala National Park is open with sunrise viewings available to be reserved at Recreation.gov. Everyone in Hawaii is encouraged to wear a face mask, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation, and those entering any kind of business are required to wear one.

This story originally appeared on March 24, 2020, and has been updated to include current information.

>> Next: AFAR’s Ultimate Hawaii Travel Guide


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