The Safe Travels Program is working but some want to add mandatory post testing

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green said the State’s Safe Travels Program is working and that he reported his findings to the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 on Wednesday, Dec. 9. There still were concerns and suggestions on ways to improve the program and keep the community safe while continuing to allow travelers to visit the islands.

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Green pointed out the number of travelers to Hawaii increased significantly since the Safe Travels program started in October without any major uptick in cases.

“Now you can see our preliminary numbers are 247,000 travelers in the month of November, without any increase in our active case count or hospitalizations. Though we wouldn’t see all of those numbers reflected in the hospital yet. We are nine days into December. But it’s a pretty good sign, given what we’ve seen. We have not seen severe COVID statewide,” Green said.

The surge happening on the mainland is causing concern despite positive data. Mayor Kirk Caldwell is suggesting a three-prong approach by implementing additional safety measures that would minimize the need to enforce quarantine.

“The first one is those who don’t have the results, yet, they’ve got to be tested. They’re taking a second test at the airport and they get on a quarantine. So we don’t have to enforce this as much,” Caldwell explained.

The second suggestion Caldwell offered is for businesses to pay any employees who travel for work to be tested.

“Third prong — Those who didn’t get tested, but want to get out of quarantine, and should get a test that they pay for at the airport. And they take a second test four days later,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said travelers would have to quarantine while they are waiting for results, but if the second test is negative they can download their results and will be released from quarantine.

He said he thinks his three-prong plan is reasonable and has put in the request with the governor.

Many agree post-arrival testing will catch more cases.

Emergency Medical Specialist Dr. Darragh O’Carroll said the state would see an uptick in positive case; catching roughly seven in 1000 people with the virus compared to the current one in 1000 the State’s surveillance program data recorded.

“The post arrival test is what’s going to catch those who were exposed on travel as well as those exposed before travel.”

O’Carroll said pre-testing and post-testing are helpful, but quarantine is still one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread the virus.

“The CDC recommendation states to monitor symptoms all the way until day seven. So, from a public health stand point, to catch 95-99 percent of people, if that’s goal, you would need to quarantine at least seven days. But every day you decrease (quarantine) there’s a chance of you releasing a person within days of infection,” O’Carroll explained.

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