Starting next week, Hawaii will attempt to lure back tourists by allowing negative coronavirus test results to take the place of a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Gov. David Ige (D) said that the change marked “the biggest single effort since the pandemic began to reopen our economy.” Since March, Hawaii has cut itself off from the mainland and aggressively enforced quarantine restrictions, arresting hundreds of tourists for leaving their hotel rooms. That approach has resulted in some of the lowest infection numbers in the United States but also decimated the economy.
Under the new policy, travelers must test negative for the coronavirus in the 72 hours leading up to their arrival — as is already the case for visitors to Alaska. Visitors can still just opt for the quarantine instead of a test. Officials said Wednesday that approximately 10 percent of visitors to Hawaii will be randomly selected for an additional follow-up test four days after arriving.
Some lawmakers worry about potential weak points in the strategy. State Sen. Glenn Wakai told the Associated Press that someone who did not get tested could fly to Hawaii intending to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival and end up infecting people on the plane. On Hawaii’s Big Island, Mayor Harry Kim has said that quarantine requirements will remain in place unless the state begins requiring a second, post-arrival test for all tourists.
During a live-streamed conversation on Wednesday with Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green, however, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert said that it was possible to bring back tourism “gradually and prudently and carefully.”
“No matter what you do, there are going to be infected people who slip through the cracks,” Anthony S. Fauci said, calling such an outcome inevitable. “The critical issue is that since you have such a low level of infection right now, you should be able to handle that.”