UH researchers say tourism can reopen with minimal risk by pre-testing passengers

Coronavirus

U.H. researchers say tourism can reopen with minimal risk. They say up to 90% of travelers with COVID-19 can be prevented from coming to Hawaii if the state follows three basic methods of screening.

The state still can’t force visitors to get tested before coming here. But the way to get around that is to have them go on 14-day quarantine, unless they get tested for COVID-19 three days before departure.

A report released by the UH Economic Research Organization, or UHERO, says most of the risk can be eliminated from incoming tourists if three things are done before they leave: get their temperature taken, ask them questions to find out if they have COVID-19 symptoms, and have them take the swab test 72 hours before departure.

“If we do all three screens, potentially we think that 80% to 90% of the people who have COVID-19 could be kept off the plane,” said Sumner La Croix, UHERO research fellow.

Alaska, which also requires visitors to go on 14-day quarantine, started testing travelers before departing on Saturday. La Croix says it makes sense for Hawaii since most of the visitors to Alaska also arrive by plane.

La Croix adds that it’s important to set up a databank to store the test results and make sure they’re secure and valid, which can be done by the airlines.

“I know that that’s a concern of the governor’s and it’s a reasonable concern to make sure that people aren’t showing up with fake test results,” he said.

The cost of the test can be up to $200, which will be the passenger’s responsibility. Although La Croix says the bigger obstacle is getting the test done and getting the results in time.

“I think it’s gonna be more of just the logistics of getting the test. You’re gonna have to arrange your schedule so that 72 hours prior to your flight you’re able to go to a testing center to get a test,” said La Croix.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green has been working on the logistics of testing departing passengers. During an interview on Wake Up 2day, he said he’s putting together a partnership with CVS to provide the testing. And he’s pushing the testing to be implemented by July 15, but the governor will make the decision.

“It would make a big difference. This is the way to keep all of our borders secure. Nothing would be perfect, but that can decrease the number of cases coming to Hawaii by a huge drop,” said Green.

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