Hawaii Re-Opens August 1 – With Pre-Arrival COVID Testing (Sadly Impossible For Many)

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.

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. Hey Gary,

    I live in Austin TX too, and had a business trip to Alaska this month and did the rapid test. It takes 20 minutes and is available at this location in South Austin

    Located in: Southpark Meadows
    Address: 9900 S IH 35 Frontage Rd, Austin, TX 78748
    You visited 3 weeks ago

  2. Flew to Alaska this week.

    Went to clinic on Monday, got a test completed in maybe 15 minutes.


  3. The fake certificate business will be booming with these 72 hour test restrictions everywhere.

    This is why I got a covid test done, so now I have a real negative test result template, and all that is needed now will be to simply change the date on it and not worry about any future trips to Alaska/Hawaii etc

  4. This new system just about guarantees that Hawaii remains a closed off state. Few are going to book a trip weeks or months out and then gamble that they can successfully get a test done 72 hours before. If they miss then they’ll be on the hook for some amount of cash for their flight and/or hotel.

    Matthew S mentioned a rapid test…do we even know if a rapid test result will be allowed? HI basically said the test has to come from a state approved list and as far as I know they have not yet released that list so we don’t know what tests will pass muster and which won’t.

    This I found particularly amusing…

    “Ige and other administration officials have pointed to a similar model being used in Alaska as proof that a pre-testing requirement can work.”

    HA! Apples and oranges. AK doesn’t get the tourist influx HI does and probably doesn’t get the same amount of visitor traffic either. And I would like to know what they mean by “can work”? Just because you set it up doesn’t make it workable for a state…particularly if nobody wants to go through the trouble.

  5. Everyone in the country can easy get a test result within 2 days from home. I did a test with “Pixel By Labcorp” – they ship it to your home, you FedEx it back, and you hear back in 36h. Plus, it’s paid for by the government.

  6. @Ben

    That won’t work *if* HI sets up a method to electronically retrieve test results as the article states they’re working on…any printed cert would be worthless.

  7. The fact that Americans can’t get a test on demand, no questions asked, for COVID and get a quick response is ridiculous. However I bet that this ability will rapidly expand over the next few weeks. Also, if you report that you have been to protests, you should be able to get a test anywhere

  8. Does the state of Hawaii accept a molecular test, antigen test or an antibody test as proof of a “negative” result for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?

    If the state of Hawaii accepts the antigen test, as a rapid diagnostic test taking less than an hour, why not do this upon passenger arrival? Some molecular tests are also rapid tests so they could use a room at the airport to do nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) or RT-PCR tests.

  9. Our local paper had an item on this just yesterday. A reporter who is healthy wanted to get a test at the county health agency which had put out an appeal for healthy people to get tested to improve their data gathering. She called in to set up an appointment and they said they’d call back. After a week she called again and they hadn’t set her up for a test yet. They then set her up for an appointment. She’ll get the results in 3-11 days. I commented on the article that this is worthless. All she will learn is whether she was positive or negative 3-11 days ago, and the fact that she had to self-select and persist means the data they gather is anything but from a random sample. The whole testing regime in this country has been rife with incompetence from day one. I expect Hawaii will only accept electronic verification directly from official health authorities, not easily faked documents, which, by the way, should be prosecuted as felonies.

  10. Yes. Its texas medclinic at southpark meadows. No questions asked about reason for the test. You can reserve your place in line several hours ahead and it will give you a 30 minute window to show up so you wont have to wait. I waited 10 minutes out front and the test results were printed 17 minutes after the nose swab. Covered by my insurance.

  11. Yep. Plenty of urgent care clinics around the country are offering the rapid tests to anyone who wants one. Takes a little bit of research to find a clinic that’s doing it – but they are around.

    AK is accepting the rapid tests, as well as the at-home tests, so reasonable to think HI would as well.

    Can’t imagine that they will accept anitbody tests for this – and they shouldn’t.

  12. Gary, where are you getting your data that it takes that long in Texas? I’m in CA and while it took that long here back in like early April, everyone I’ve known that’s been tested here (and in several other states) in the last 6 weeks or so has had results within 24 hours.

  13. @Max J — Pixel by Labcorp will not perform a test for individuals who do not meet the screening criteria (symptoms, exposure, or high-risk group). There are many parts of the country, maybe most, where healthy, low-risk, unexposed individuals cannot get a test, certainly not for free. The only provider I’ve found that will perform a test for this population is Vault Health’s saliva test ($150 per test).

  14. rapid tests exist, my aging father needs a hospital procedure next week, Sunday he goes for a Covid test and then self-quarantine until Wed for his surgery.

  15. The reports here reflect the pathetic nature of the response to C-19 in too many states by too many Americans. The double whammy news yesterday – that the EU has the US on it’s no-entry list along with Brazil and Russia AND that there were 37,000 new cases (compared to Canada’s 328 and most European countries at <300) – shows there’s much to be done to quell new breakouts. Feel sorry for those in the tri-state region who did successfully deal with the virus and now watch irresponsible, mainly Red states (sorry to inject politic but) lock them in. Keeping Americans out of countries is not anti-American per se but pro their own residents who sacrificed to control the spread. Health and Safety go beyond the Economy which seems to be the self-defeating attitude taken by the White House and too many governors.

  16. @DavidB: Uh…successfully dealt with the virus? If it were a country, the tri-state area would lead the entire world in per capita deaths by more than double. NY’s death rate is over 12 times that of SC, where I am. Yeah, tri-state rates are dropping now (I suppose you eventually run out of vulnerable populations to kill, lol) and ours are rising (not deaths…yet), but spare me the sanctimonious speech from a very, very fragile glass house.

    Moving on, we just booked a family trip to HI for Christmas. All refundable except the Marriott property in Maui, which has an absurd 45-day cancellation period, so the thought of all those points going up in smoke with a bad test result on the eve of the trip is a bit stressful, but still better than a 14-day quarantine, which would torpedo the whole thing from the outset.

    Hopefully the there is a lot more clarity and efficiency in testing by then. I’m not sure I could get tested AND get results back in ~48 hours (allowing a third day for travel) right now in SC. It’s still all a bit of a clusterf*ck.

  17. This 72 hour testing crap has to stop, along with all the other unreasonable requirements. Either open or stay closed, take your pick. If you want tourism, open the doors. If you want absolute safety, keep them closed. These requirements are ridiculous and not viable and just enough of a hassle for most people to make them stay away. Yeah, maybe if I had family or work in Hawaii or Alaska maybe I’d go through that, otherwise just cross it off the list and go someplace else until they end restrictions. I’m dying to travel and I have multiple delayed or cancelled trips since this started, but no way am I about to make any new bookings to any place with anything less than unrestricted access. Not worth it. Amazing that these places think there will be any appreciable tourism under these circumstances.

  18. To follow up on this, there’s not a lot of details but in a news conference they mentioned partnering with CVS who would offer the test and have results available in their database for Hawaii officials to access.

  19. @Ken A. There’s a big downside to relying on testing only upon arrival, rather than the 72-hour ahead approach: That method likely results in infected people getting on a plane for multiple hours with people who would otherwise not be exposed. Those people could get infected themselves on the flight TO Hawai’i, test negative on arrival, and then be free to spread the infection for as long as their visit lasts after the incubation period.

    This is a similar approach to what French Polynesia will be taking starting July 15. I’m booked on a cruise there in November. We have not tried to cancel yet, but I’m very worried about the prospect of testing posting at the last minute or of being unable to get a test and results quickly enough. Right now, I think there is still a backlog in Georgia to get results. I don’t think it’s as long as Gary describes for Austin area, but it’s often longer than 72-hours.

  20. My son had a test at CVS and received his test results in minutes, so it is not a truly onerous requirement. The only real impediment is getting clearance to take the test.

  21. Are you implying that President Trump a liar?
    – “We Have The Best Testing In The World” – 4 May.
    – “We are leading the world in testing” – 22 June

    Western media confirmed that Wuhan tested 11 million people for COVID-19 in 2 weeks.

  22. Why can’t Trump open Hawaii’s borders to Chinese tourists? They would definitely be able to get the testing, plus there’s virtually no COVID-19 there (and whenever a hot spot turns out they immediately suppress it).

  23. I’m dealing with issue re a trip to Alaska next week. Hawaii is modeling their program after the Alaska program, which requires a test within 72 hours of boarding your flight to Alaska. Some key facts:

    The test required is a molecular test. Also referred to as the ‘diagnostic test,’ the ‘virus test’ or the ‘COVID-19 PCR test.’ THE ANTIBODY TEST IS NOT ACCEPTED. The antibody test does not detect an active infection, which is the point here.

    There IS a rapid test on the market that provides the PCR molecular diagnostic test. Results are available in minutes, while you wait. Availability varies by location. In our market, for example, these rapid tests are provided by FastMed and NextCare urgent care facilities. (Though we’re doing such a dismal job of managing the virus in Arizona that the rapid increase in cases every day is making tests much harder to come by.)

    Here is a map of testing facilities throughout the country, linked to by the State of Alaska. You can refine search criteria for the molecular test by searching for the light blue “Diagnostic Testing Sites.” My experience in Arizona is that the data provided is pretty current.


    Here is a fact sheet that lays out the specifics for interstate travelers into Alaska:

  24. Its confusing .. Which tests will Hawaii accept? The release says a NAAT fda approved test instead of pcr test. But isn’t a pcr test an NAAT test? I’ve read that the rapid test (20 min results) is an antigen test, not the same methodology as pcr but will it qualify as the NAAT test that Hawaii requires for entry????

  25. Hawaii Gov said the required test is NAAT fda approved test which replaces the previously required PCR test. Everything I’ve read says a pcr test is an NAAT test. Question Is will the Rapid Test (results in 20 min) which is an antigen (molecular test for active virus) but is different that rt-pcr or pcr test (taking up to 10 days for results) going to be an acceptable NAAT test???

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