HONOLULU (KHON2) — With the date set to reopen mainland tourism on Oct. 15, economy experts say it has to be done right, and delaying it further is not an option. They say having the COVID tests widely available for travelers will be critical. The state says it will be ready.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is in charge of the pre-testing program, says he is also working on a partnership with Walgreen’s to provide the tests. CVS and Kaiser Permanente have already signed on. Along with the deep nasal swab test, he says other types of tests could be considered.
“We’re now working with a company that also does the saliva test and we hope to approve them in the coming days. So we’re trying to give lots of different options for people if they choose to travel to Hawaii,” said Green.
He says he is confident there will be enough tests and travelers should be able to get the results within 72 hours before their departure. If not, the traveler will go on quarantine, but only until the negative results become available, not the entire 14 days.
Economists say there is little room for mistakes come Oct. 15. And if there are any, the state should be prepared to fix them quickly.
“Because if there’s mistakes, they’re gonna be communicated back to people in the mainland. If people see that people are coming here and they’re having a positive experience, I can easily see us getting 50% of the tourists that we have before,” said Sumner La Croix, UHERO Research Fellow.
That is about 15,000 visitors a day. La Croix says reopening tourism is risky, but the time has come for the industry that drives about a quarter of the state’s entire economy, which brings in $2 billion a month. He says the state should also look into testing travelers when they arrive as an extra precaution.
“I think that having that test upon arrival would be really useful in reassuring local residents, workers in the tourism industry, and the arriving people themselves,” said La Croix.
He adds that different types of tests are becoming more available that might not be as accurate as the deep nasal swabs, but are considerably cheaper. The swabs will cost $120 to $140 dollars. Green says he first wants to make sure there are enough tests for Hawaii residents, and then he will consider testing travelers here when they arrive.
“If we can get 5,000 extra tests a day and we can do it simply, I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to make sure everybody is cleared,” said Green.
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