Hawaii has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine on arrival since late March. That order currently extends through July 31, but will be extended.
What’s new is that starting August 1 Hawaii will offer an option to avoid quarantine. Arriving passengers with a negative test for COVID-19 from the previous 72 hours, will be exempted. The state will also be implementing temperature screening at airports.
The state’s governor expects this policy to last until there are effective treatments for COVID-19 that render it far less dangerous, or a vaccine becomes available.
Testing Isn’t Foolproof Way to Protect Hawaii From The Virus
Temperature screening will identify some symptomatic patients with the virus, who have one of the major symptoms that doesn’t show in all patients. Some people with temperatures will suppress their fevers using Tylenol or other pain relievers.
Hawaii thinks they’ll keep the virus under control with a required testing regimen, and they’re partnering with CVS to confirm test results though it’s unclear how this will work. The state wants to ensure they don’t allow people to circumvent quarantine with fake tests. However there are still risks,
- People may be exposed to the virus but not develop sufficient viral loads for a positive test 72 hours prior to departure
- They might be exposed post-testing or even at the airport enroute to Hawaii and they may not have fevers when they arrive.
- There are also false negatives in testing, which are often the result of errors in sample collection.
Testing doesn’t guarantee the virus will not enter the state. In fact, it is very likely that it will. The plan is to limit the number of people who enter with the virus, not to bring that number to zero, looking for a tradeoff between control of SARS-CoV-2 and re-opening tourism which represents about one-fifth of the state’s economy.
Currently there are just 23 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Hawaii, and 3 people on ventilators. Since they’re not at the point of having the health care system overwhelmed they can accept some greater risk of spread. This has been the case of course for some time, and this new move calls into question why it wasn’t done much sooner – to the extent this plan can effectively balance the state’s needs then they’ve been imposing significant costs both on the economy and on the travel liberties of Americans unnecessarily.
Testing Won’t Allow Many Americans To Visit Hawaii
The problem with this plan is that many travelers will not be in a position to take a test, and then obtain results, all within 72 hours of traveling to and arriving in Hawaii. Currently reports in my city of Austin is that test results seem to be taking 4-8 days, and people getting free public tests are being told to expect up to 10 days for results People are recovering from the virus before they confirm they have it.
Furthermore, many test locations still require a health screening indicating symptoms or exposure to individuals with confirmed cases, although there are reports of people answering dishonestly in order to gain access to testing.
That’s not the case everywhere, however the effect is that tourism will only be possible from some areas of the United States – and this is something that many people making plans to visit Hawaii may not realize in advance. They’ll go for testing three days out but not have results to present.