Hawaii residents face problems in pre-travel testing process

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pre-travel testing period kicks off on Oct. 15, but local residents returning home from a trip said they are running into problems getting a test done in the 72-hour window.

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The pre-travel testing program is the only way for visitors and residents to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine when traveling to Hawaii, but some are realizing the process is not as simple as it sounds.

Local Musician Shawn Pimental and his girlfriend Pono Fernandez are returning to Hawaii from San Francisco on Oct. 15th–the day the pre-travel testing program begins. They said getting a COVID-19 test through one of the state’s trusted partners has not been easy.

“Getting qualified to even make an appointment has been kind of tricky,” said Fernandez.

“Not even exaggerating, we’ve probably been through about 20 different sites and signed up for 20 different tests and been denied 18 out of those 20 times,” said Pimental.

According to Pimental, they encountered issues over medical insurance–some partners do not take HMSA and will not allow you to take a test if you are not covered. Another site denied them for not having any COVID-19 symptoms. There was also confusion regarding which address to put down on the form.

“Naturally, you want to put your home address, but you have to put your address where you’re staying here–the hotel address–which they don’t say that. If you put your Hawaii address, then you’re denied, you’re kicked out of the system,” Pimental explained.

The other problem–finding an available appointment.

“We didn’t think it was going to be hard. We thought, okay, pretty easy to find the test at Walgreens or CVS here. But everything’s just been full. We tried every Walgreens and CVS and probably like 100 miles from here. All the appointments are full up until almost the end of the month,” said Pimental.

Hawaiian Airlines is listed as a pre-testing partner, but Pimental said he could not find any information about the drive-thru tests they are supposed to be offering.

“There’s no information on their website. It says, ‘check back soon.'”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hawaiian Airlines said:
“As an official state of Hawai’i trusted testing partner, we plan to open our Worksite Labs drive-thru testing site near LAX on October 16 and SFO later next week. Details will be available soon on our website and at https://www.worksitelabs.com.
In the meantime, guests flying from any of our U.S. mainland gateways, can take the pre-travel COVID-19 test from the comfort of their home through our partnership with Vault Health to qualify to be exempt from the state of Hawai’i quarantine.”

Pimental’s advice to other travelers–plan ahead and be patient.

“We had been doing a lot of research in the week leading up to our departure. And yet, we’re still 24-48 hours ahead of our flight and scrambling,” said Fernandez.

“Be prepared. Your plan might not work. We’re not even on our plan A or B. We’re like on plan like L and M and N already,” said Pimental.

They booked an appointment on Oct. 14, which is 24-hours before their flight, at a Walgreens in Sacramento–200 miles from their hotel.

Pimental said they already know they will have to quarantine when they arrive home in Hawaii until their results come in.

Officials announced more trusted pre-testing partners on Oct. 12. Click here to see the full list.

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