As COVID-19 cases surge on the mainland, experts call for more security measures when tourism reopens

Coronavirus

As Hawaii prepares to reopen tourism in August, Covid-19 infection rates at some mainland states are surging. Experts say additional preventive measures are needed to keep Hawaii as a safe destination.

Experts say tourism has to reopen or Hawaii’s economy might not recover. A lot can happen in the next few weeks, but a mainland surge in Covid cases will likely lead to a spike in cases here. So the state needs to be ready.

The UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) released a study that says by pretesting incoming passengers, and other measures such as thermal screening at the airports when they arrive, 80%-90% of infected travelers will be prevented from coming to Hawaii.

“That still means that 10%-20% percent of Covid positive people who buy air tickets are gonna proceed on to Hawaii,” said Sumner La Croix, UHERO Research Fellow.

Starting August 1, out-of-state travelers who choose not to get tested will have to be quarantined for 14 days. La Croix says it’s important for the state to discourage that option more than ever.

“I just think most of the people choosing to quarantine are gonna be people who intend to break the quarantine. It has to be that people look at what quarantine is like and decide no, that quarantine is gonna be strictly enforced,” said La Croix.

He adds that the state might need to designate some hotels or at least certain wings of hotels for those under quarantine. He says airlines and hotels should also launch an educational campaign for visitors.

“While they’re here, telling them that they need to be using masks in public places. We should be requiring mask usage in public places. You can still have a good vacation wearing a mask and social distancing,” said La Croix.

For added safety measures, state lawmakers are providing $90 million to Hawaii’s main airports to help prevent the spread of the virus. That will provide thermal screening cameras at all the gates, more staffing, and raise the testing capacity from 3,000 per day up to 15,000 per day. More technology like contact tracing apps will also be used.

“So that we can not just track that person and all their contacts, but really see who might be infected because of them,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

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