Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim today said that effective Wednesday, Dec. 2, the County will resume testing all incoming travelers for COVID-19. The County will continue using Premier Medical Group and use the Abbott Rapid Test, which should provide results to travelers within 15 minutes. If the traveler tests positive using the Rapid Test, they will then be required to take a PCR test (the deep nasal swab) at the airport. They must quarantine in a hotel until the PCR results come back, and if positive, they must remain in quarantine. If negative, they may resume their plans.
Hawaii County was testing 100% of passengers between Oct. 15, when the State’s pre-travel test program began, and Nov. 6. At the time, Kim reported that .0014% of travelers had tested positive in the post-travel test. On November 6, the County changed the program, and began randomly testing around 25% of incoming passengers. At the time, Mayor Kim said the change was because of the financial and logistical costs of testing, plus there was a space issue at Kona International Airport. He says he has now been able to get space at the airport to resume the testing. He also told the Committee the County needs help to have personnel to staff the testing.
Travelers may still opt to get a pre-travel COVID-19 test from one of the state’s “Trusted Testing Partners” in order to avoid quarantining for 14 days.
This County revision comes on the heels of Gov. David Ige’s modification of the pre-travel test program which went into effect last Tuesday, Nov. 24, which now requires travelers to have the results of their 72-hour pre-travel test and to have uploaded it to the Hawaii Safe Travels web site before they board their plane. If not, they must quarantine for 14 days, regardless of when they get the test results. This comes at a time when testing has increased on the mainland so much that labs cannot guarantee results within 72 hours. One of the largest “Trusted Testing Partner”, CVS, which has around 2800 locations around the country, is now advising potential Hawaii travelers that they cannot guarantee test results in time and that they should consider seeking another provider.
Kim, in a Zoom meeting today with members of the State House Select Committee on COVID-19 with all four County Mayors, said since Nov. 1, 43 travelers have tested positive for COVID-19. That is 1.4 travelers a day. Dr. Mark Mugiishi, head of HMSA, suggested that the counties should expect there will never be zero cases, and that they might look at whether the County and its lodging and hospital facilities can handle potential COVID-19 patients. He said he and other members of the Committee consider the State pre-travel testing a success. Right now, the positivity rate in the state from community spread is higher than the positivity rate of travelers coming in.
In the meeting, Kim said the post-travel test costs are being covered by CARES funds, which stop at the end of December.
With Mayor-elect Mitch Roth being inaugurated Dec. 7, it’s not clear whether the County will be able to continue the post-travel testing. Kim had previously said that stopping the 100% testing on Nov. 6 was partly due to cost.
For a previous story about the County’s post-travel test with more details, click here.