State says extra security measures in place when tourism reopens


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii is only two days away from reopening tourism, and the state says additional safety measures are in place if there is a surge in COVID cases. Officials point out that they do not expect a surge from travelers, but possibly from more residents going back to work.

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The state says it’s testing and contact tracing abilities have increased dramatically. Also, officials say the healthcare system is in much better shape now than it was just a few weeks ago.

Come Oct. 15, officials say they expect about 2,000 to 3,000 visitor arrivals per day. The governor says the state is adding up to 200 contact tracers to deal with travel-related infections, raising the total to 500 tracers. The state is also using $30 million in CARES Act funds for tests and testing equipment.

“This means we will have hundreds of thousands of additional tests that we can use to manage the virus in our community as we resume economic activity and school reopenings,” said Gov. David Ige.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell also plans to increase testing capacity on Oahu by bringing in a mobile testing lab that is capable of doing 10,000 tests a day. The governor adds that hospitals can handle more COVID patients now with the addition of 230 healthcare professionals.

“It really was access to healthcare professionals and we have plugged that gap and we are a lot better prepared for any increase in COVID-19 cases today than we were even a month or six weeks ago,” said Ige.

Officials add that if there is a surge in cases from travelers, they will likely see it coming.

“I don’t expect a surge at all of consequence until we see big surges first in the East Coast in the winter,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

The head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority points out that there is a lot of excitement and anxiety within the industry because of all the unknowns. But the state has to take some risks because the economy is in a freefall. It is likely that mistakes will be made, so the state has to be ready to correct them right away.

“This is an imperfect scenario being executed by imperfect people. We have one thing in common, aloha for Hawaii, aloha for one another,” said John De Fries, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO.

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