Hawaii COVID-19 shutdown update: quarantine lifted for some Aug 1

In a major step toward reopening Hawaii tourism as the Hawaii COVID-19 shutdown continues, Governor David Ige and a host of State and County officials from across the state announced today a plan to lift the mandatory 14-day quarantine required of overseas arrivals to Hawaii for those who can produce a negative coronavirus test, effective August 1.

The policy announcement means that visitors who can provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of their arrival will not be required to quarantine for 14 days. All others will still be required to abide by the mandatory 14-day quarantine beyond August 1.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said that officials are working with CVS and its national network of thousands of pharmacies to work out reliable and accurate ways to track testing of Hawaii arrivals. There are no details yet available regarding testing procedures, but, Green said, those specifics are to be worked out in the weeks to come before August 1.

All of the elected officials who spoke today stressed the urgent need to reopen Hawaii tourism. They included Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, and the leaders of the State House and State Senate.

Today’s announcement came as states on the US mainland reported a record number of daily new cases: ~34,700. Certainly, because Hawaii is a destination with arrivals from dozens of mainland cities, any increase in cases on the mainland is cause for concern. Record-breaking numbers are cause for alarm.  

Hawaii’s move to lift the mandatory quarantine is modeled after a similar strategy in place in Alaska that has provided evidence that pre-screening new arrivals is effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Hawaii officials are in close contact with other national and international agencies as steps are being taken around the world to reopen travel.

Officials are also considering the possibility of opening “travel bubbles” to Alaska and international points of origin like of origin that have effectively controlled the spread of COVID-19, such as Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Governor Ige acknowledged that for weeks he has been pressured to announce a “date” for reopening Hawaii’s economy. Today’s announcement provided a date for a change in policy, although officials also stressed that it is part of a “multi-layered” approach.

Parts of Hawaii’s economy have been reopening slowly. Also today, Governor Ige approved Honolulu Mayor Caldwell’s request to allow live music performances at local venues with safety guidelines in place.

The speakers at today’s press conference stressed the importance of social-distancing, wearing a facemask, washing hands, and all of the other known, simple measures to help contain COVID-19 in Hawaii. Ige and the others commended Hawaii’s residents for their efforts as essential to Hawaii’s proven success in mitigating the global pandemic.

Hawaii’s scope of ability for testing and contact tracing is being expanded. Officials are confident in Hawaii’s health care’s capacity to care for COVID-19 cases. Today’s announcement lifting a mandatory quarantine for Hawaii arrivals with a negative COVID-19 test on August 1 is a significant effort to begin welcoming visitors back to Hawaii.