Gov postpones reopening tourism date to Sept. 1

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three more Hawaii residents have died from the coronavirus. This as the state announces it’s pushing back the reopening of tourism.

The 20th death happened on July 7, an elderly Oahu man who had underlying medical issues. The 21st happened on Sunday at an Oahu hospital. Officals say the woman had previously been a resident of a care home.

And the 22nd happened outside of Hawaii in Arizona. The elderly Kauai resident had been receiving treatment for several months for underlying medical conditions. The state’s death toll now stands at 22.

[RELATED: 23 new cases of COVID-19 brings state total to 1,243]

Gov. David Ige says the growing number of cases here and the mainland are key factors in his decision to delay lifting the travel quarantine. He admits that this will make the state’s economic recovery even more challenging. But in the end, he says pushing the date another month is still what’s best for everyone in Hawaii.

“I know that this increases the burden on businesses here on the islands, especially small businesses. But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community,” said Ige.

The decision comes after three days of meetings with the four county mayors, who said they didn’t feel safe with the August 1 reopening date because of rising cases here and on the mainland. The mainland spike also makes it more challenging for travelers to get test results within 72 hours. And has led to a dramatic decrease in testing capacity here.

“The outbreaks on the mainland are not in control and we don’t believe that that situation will change significantly by August 1 as we had hoped,” said Ige.

Ige says the plan, when it takes effect on September 1, is still to have travelers show proof of a negative Covid test 72 hours prior to departure. Otherwise they will be quarantined for 14 days.

There’s a lot of uncertainty on the availability of the tests. CVS Pharmacy had expressed interest in providing the tests. Ige says he will make an announcement soon on other companies that will join the partnership. For now though, because of the spike on the mainland, test results can take 5 to 10 days.

Tourism officials point out that with current conditions, most people do not feel safe about traveling.

“People are still a little hesitant about traveling, jumping on a plane especially for a 5 to 8 hour flight. They’re a little concerned,” said Chris Tatum, Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO.

But business leaders say even with demand dramatically lower, the state needs to have a consistent message on what travelers should know, and when.

“Those people need messaging, I think consistent messaging. We’ve now had two meetings and we haven’t seen the messaging and the communications plan yet,” said Wendy Laros, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

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