Hawaii Covid Restrictions May Change AGAIN, Driven By The Governor’s Race Not Safety

After several months of delay, Hawaii opened to tourism October 15th. They allowed arriving passengers to skip the mandatory 14 day quarantine by getting a Covid-19 test from an approved vendor within 72 hours of travel.

That’s about to change, because starting Wednesday it will no longer be possible to test out of quarantine when arriving on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. And that’s not the only change we may see.

  • The Mayor of Honolulu wants to allow testing on arrival for those who show up with a negative test from an unapproved vendor, and testing on arrival followed by a second test after four days for those who do not get a test prior to departure.

  • The Big Island wants to start testing 25% – 100% of arriving passengers, including those that brought negative tests from an approved vendor.

  • The Lieutenant Governor has proposed allowing passengers to bring a negative test taken within 96 hours (instead of the current 72 hours), but add universal rapid antigen testing on arrival. The Lieutenant Governor is an emergency room physician and responsible for the state’s arriving passenger testing program.

The Mayor of Honolulu, Mayor of Kauai, and Lieutenant Governor are all believed to be planning to run for Governor in the 2022 elections. The current term-limited Governor is supporting the Mayor of Honolulu. The Lieutenant Governor “was insulting to the Honolulu Mayor’s suggestions and called [them] juvenile.”

The Governor of Hawaii allowed Kauai to opt out of testing as a substitute for 14 day quarantine entirely, but rejected their earlier request for a 3 day quarantine and second second.

People have booked flights and accommodations and planned to travel to Hawaii based on their understanding that a negative Covid-19 test would allow them to visit the island without quarantine and that this is all that would be required. Of course they booked travel based on previous announcements of testing as an option to opt out of quarantine, which got pushed back multiple times before finally launching October 15.

Changes are happening, in some cases with just a few days’ notice, and many arriving passengers aren’t likely to learn about the change until they’ve begun their journey. Regime uncertainty is one of the biggest challenges to travel right now.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As a local, i feel bad for those travelers who get shanked by our fearless leaders and the ever changing, disjointed, unclear etc etc travel requirements. Yes, they are all auditioning for the next Governor using covid to gain incessant tv time. Instead of being on tv… these boneheads should have been gathering in a room/zoom and HAMMERING OUT a cohesive, unified, clear, simple, tight plan THEN presenting it to the public. How is it our top 3 leaders Gov Ige , Lt.Gov Green, & Mayor Caldwell are not on the same page!!??? Its utterly ridiculous. That’s why (and i hate to say it) we here in HI are rudderless in the open ocean. Granted, they’re trying, but as Leaders… total fail.

  2. The Hawaii testing regimen actually “caught” covid in one of our friends. They were going for a couple of weeks, and a day before the flight got their airline mandated tests. Two in the family were asymptomatic, but positive. They didn’t go. This is how it’s supposed to work. A quarantine means no travelling to some of these destinations.

  3. @ Amazing Larry. Don’t know about “all political” but I’d go with 99.96%. How many people know that deaths in the US spike EVERY YEAR in November, December and January? It’s not just the current virus, it happens every year.

  4. I am of two minds here…it’s frustrating how internal politics has caused so much unnecessary pain
    and wasted opportunities for moving forward. On the other hand, Hawaii is the safest state in the country and their island location makes it easier to protect. Everyone who could potentially spread the virus comes in by air. Run properly, the testing is the way to go. It’s not perfect, but protects us enough to prevent most new cases from arriving. So far case load is very low in Hawaii and a large percentage of the population is very respectful about masking and social distancing.
    So far we are doing well given the circumstances

  5. Hi Thomas,

    The process worked for your friends, and for fellow passengers, though Hawaii recently arrested a couple of returning Hawaii residents who boarded despite testing positive.

    The testing program has been an unqualified success — very minimal numbers have slipped through the cracks, and less than expected, allowing the economy to begin its recover.

    This was accomplished with the blessing of Dr. Fauci, who conducted a video interview with Dr. Josh Green, the Lt. Governor. But now, Kauai has reversed that progress.

    Due to Kauai mayor (who is running for Governor against Dr. Green) pulling out of the pre-arrival testing program, all arrivals are subject to 14-day quarantine on that island, regardless of test results. This was announced Friday, Nov 27 at 5p Hawaii time, or 10p Eastern, when most people were in the midst of Thanksgiving weekend.

    Who knows how many travelers never got the word, got negative test results, and showed up to travel yesterday, only to be told they would be stuck in quarantine for 14 days. Most hotels and resorts, such as the Grand Hyatt (900 rooms) have already shut down.

    # of Kauai ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients: 0
    # of Kauai Hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients: 0
    # of Kauai of passengers who followed all the rules, yet their trips were interrupted or cancelled on short notice or even upon arrival — unknown thousands
    # of Kauai citizens who will go back on unemployment — unknown thousands

    Even if health issues actually required this action, Kauai should have more empathy for travelers, as well as travel industry employees.

  6. ” How many people know that deaths in the US spike EVERY YEAR in November, December and January? It’s not just the current virus, it happens every year.:” Easily the most ignorant and false statement I have read on the internet today. Simply look up excess deaths.

  7. Yes Bill and Florida Man…..Amazing how many believe the message that Covid is no worse than the flu when the. Information that proves their belief wrong is so readily available. As Mark Twain once said, It’s easier to fool a person twice than to convince them they have been fooled.

  8. @Amazing Larry – no worries, when your President Trump you love and worship so much gets re-inaugurated, I’m sure he’ll immediately fix the virus and simultaneously build the wall.

  9. This is serious, we need to stop the misinformation. Its not a question of free speech but dangerous speech that affects public health.

    Travel can be done correctly, but not if we cannot trust science or authority.

    Telling a blind person its ok to cross the road when a bus is headed their way is not just cruel but homicide, don’t spread lies or spout opinions on medial subjects unless you have the training of authority to evaluate the data. This is not about free speech its about safety.

    From the long view of the history of H. Saipan Saipan we know that this is not our first run with a pandemic and will not be our last.

  10. What Gary is 100% right about that in many instances the response of our “visionary” leaders is not driven by facts and science by rather their political competitiveness. One administrator is looking over another trying to figure our how he/she can overdo the measures of the neighbor. Unfortunately, most of their responses are just for show. Take masks for example. If wearing masks is so great, why we have such a massive wave of the new infections? Perhaps, wearing N95 and not bandanas would solve this? We had 9 month to figure this out. And Hawaii had plenty of time to figure out what to do with visitors.

  11. It’s tragic that Hawaii could be doing as well as Australia or New Zealand but the refusal of the US mainland to implement sensible precautions has condemned them to having to choose between safety or the economy.

    Leisure tourism across Australia and New Zealand is booming, with travelers feeling safe to book. We are the proof that you can have safety and domestic leisure travel.

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