Health experts say one out of five COVID-19 cases will slip through pre-testing travel protocols


The state continues to round up more partners to provide COVID-19 tests for mainland travelers to Hawaii to reopen tourism by October 15. Health experts say those tests will stop 80% of infected passengers, so additional safety measures will need to be in place.

Officials with the House Select Committee on COVID-19 say even with travelers getting tested 72 hours before departure to bypass quarantine, one out of five infected passengers will make it to Hawaii. So our contact tracing and testing will be more critical than ever.

“So the key isn’t whether or not those folks slip through and how you prevent 100% of them outside of keeping the quarantine in place. It’s how well we are poised to manage the spread of that virus,” said Raymond Vara, Hawaii Pacific Health CEO.

Managing it means having enough space in our hospitals for additional cases and enough contact tracers to stop the spread. The state currently has 286 and Vara says that’s enough for now, and more will be added. But having enough contact tracers won’t work if people don’t provide the necessary information. Officials say the state has to urge the public to cooperate.

“We’re hearing that fewer than 50% of people will share information or return calls or even communicate with these. I think it’s really important that we share with our public that if we’re going to control this virus we have to cooperate with contact tracers,” said Dr. Mark Mugiishi, HMSA President and CEO.

In the meantime, the state is also working on more options for travelers to get tested. CVS, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreen’s, along with United and Hawaiian Airlines have signed up, and more partners are on the way.

“We’re going to work on details in the next couple of days and another major airline, so it will be quite easy to get a test,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Additional testing in Hawaii is also being considered for mainland visitors who want to go island hopping.

“Arrive in Hawaii with a pre-test, wait 72 hours and then take a second test before being open and not subject to the self quarantine. But that’s still a concept we have not fully approved,” Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Incident Commander.

He points out that the problem is having enough tests for those willing to do that.

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