In mid-March Hawaii’s governor asked tourists not to come to the islands and then on March 26 imposed a 14 day quarantine on all arriving visitors. They couldn’t legally ban people from coming, but they could impose public health restrictions.
The policy was motivated as much by fear and hostility towards outsiders as by coronavirus protection. They banned people from extending Airbnb rentals to tourists who had already been in the state for months, and were willing to pay to send people home. The state’s re-opening was continually pushed back.
We’ve seen re-opening dates of August 1, and September 1, and now Hawaii is saying that visitors will be able to travel to Hawaii without 14 day quarantine starting October 15. In liqu of quarantine passengers will have to present a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arriving.
Muddled Policy Even Once Visitors Are Allowed To Skip Quarantine
The state stays they’re contracting with “CVS and Kaiser Permanente to offer the tests at the traveler’s expense” although it’s not clear what that even means, since:
- Passengers are expected to get tested before traveling to Hawaii
- And get tested at their own expense
- There’s no indication that CVS or Kaiser are guaranteeing turnaround time for results
Although arrivals into the state with a negative Covid test will be permitted, there’s no indication yet when people will be permitted to travel between islands without quarantine (even with a negative test).
Meanwhile Kauai will offer those who are quarantining the ability to use resort facilities – they won’t have to stay inside their rooms.
This Should Have Been Allowed Months Ago
In some ways it’s odd that Hawaii is opening up now. While confirmed daily cases are off their peak, there’s more Covid-19 cases being reported daily than there were in mid-July and before that.
It’s amazing that it’s taking until October 15 to allow people to present a negative PCR test to avoid 14 day quarantine. It’s not as though Hawaii needed nearly six months to get a testing on arrival regime set up. They aren’t offering testing. They’re merely allowing people to get tested on their own and present results in lieu of the quarantine. Alaska adopted a similar policy in June.
Moreover 14 day quarantine is excessive, since it’s unlikely to either take that long for symptoms to present or for an asymptomatic patient to remain infectious for nearly that long.
The 14 day quarantine regime has been damaging, but mostly it points to a failure to have implemented alternatives. Meanwhile if negative tests are sufficient for entry starting in mid-October – even though they’re imperfect – they would have been sufficient for entry last month and the month before that.
Hawaii Should Be Offering Testing On Arrival
Given the importance of tourism to the economy, you’d have expected the state to offer testing on arrival. That can be difficult to scale, although we’re on the cusp of faster, cheaper and more available testing that circumvents labs. There’s risk to that approach, since the tests are imperfect, but the virus is also already spreading in Hawaii whether a small percentage of tourists arriving with the virus are missed by a test or not. They could have limited arrivals at least initially to Honolulu, or required shorter quarantine and a second test.