Surveillance testing for incoming passengers will start as pre-travel testing program launches

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Thousands of passengers are expected to come in on Thursday, which is when the state’s pre-travel testing program launches.

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Part of the program requires a COVID-19 test to be taken within 72 hours to flying to Hawaii. However, some will need to take another test four days after arriving. 

This will be part of the state’s surveillance of passengers.

It will be called the “Surveillance of COVID-19 Infection and Pretested Travelers,” and it’s meant to check if asymptomatic people are making their way into the state after their initial 72-hour pre-flight COVID-19 test.

“The goal is going to be to sample up to 10 percent of the individuals that have come through and have had, you know, of course, the negative nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) and then reassess each day, how well we’re doing,” said Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green.

He said that they have a team of medical experts and scientists overlooking the surveillance numbers. A epidemiological statistics team under the surveillance program will decide what percentage of passengers will be sampled from each arriving plane to make sure they are getting the right sample amount.

“For example, starting from a random number between one and 10, each x passenger–like pick number four … That the fourth passenger will be selected and then the 24th and so on until you have a sufficient sample,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “For example, if there are 200 passengers, you would hope to sample 20 people.”

Those people will receive another COVID-19 test four days later. Their contact information should already be in the Safe Travels platform.

Lt. Gov. Green said that he predicts less than one in one thousand people will test positive in this second surveillance test. The state is looking to keep the surveillance program at least for the first two months to determine if there’s any surge in traveling.

The City and County of Honolulu will be watching the numbers. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement:

“If the positivity rate is greater than what has been predicted, there are a number of avenues that should be discussed, including but not limited to requiring a second post arrival test.”

Lt. Gov. Green said surveillance could also extend to the community.

“Additional surveillance on other groups is prudent, we think,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “Testing smart, testing our firefighters, testing our school teachers (and) making sure people who are working in Hawaii are being tested negative.”

Another group he wants to keep an eye on is college students coming into the state.

“We felt for a long time that when we have a large number of our students coming back, whether it’s over fall break for Christmas time, it would be a prudent thing to (test them),” said Green.

However, he did not say when this additional community surveillance could start.

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