What to expect at the airport when the pre-travel testing program begins


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program will begin on Thursday, Oct. 15.

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Anyone who tests negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival will be able to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine order.

Neighbor island mayors have been trying to get extra measures in place with additional tests.

Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim has been given the verbal “okay” from Hawaii Governor David Ige for his post-arrival antigen test.

Gov. Ige is expected to sign-off on Mayor Kim’s proposal, which would require all incoming passengers to take a second rapid antigen test at Kona International Airport.

The rapid test is free for travelers and paid for by CARES Act money from Hawaii County.

Mayor Kim used about $3 million in CARES Act money to secure an unlimited supply of tests with Premier Medical Group. The health group will facilitate the tests at the airport.

The rapid test yields a result in about 15 minutes.

If the antigen test comes back negative, you’re free to go. However, if it comes back positive, you’ll be required to take the “gold standard” PCR test on-site and you’ll have to quarantine until the PCR result comes back.

“It’s not 100%, but when combined with the PCR tests from the mainland, it’s quite good,” Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green said about the antigen test. “That should be enough security for anyone, I mean, that will that will effectively double sift out any cases.”

Travelers who are awaiting their pre-travel results will still have to quarantine regardless of what the antigen result is.

The on-site antigen test at Kona International Airport is a second test. Arriving passengers still have to get a pre-travel test with trusted partners of the state.

Those same antigen tests could be used to re-open inter-island travel.

“That our goal and hopefully if this works out well, and we have the finances and the tests to bring that in. We will do that but we’ll take it one step at a time, ” said Mayor Kim.

“That would be my recommendation,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “Do that within 72 hours of inter-island travel, you’d be fine. Frankly, you can do it within 72 minutes, because it’s a fast test, you could just get a test and know your negative right before.”

Lt. Gov. Green said tests cost anywhere from $5 to $22.

All trans-Pacific travelers will be separated into two lines once they arrive. One for the people who did the pre-test and the other line for those who opted out.

“We hope that there’s nobody in that line that says I didn’t take a test because they’re crazy. They’re going to be in quarantine for 14 days,” Lt. Gov. Green said.

Those who took the pre-test will have already uploaded their result in their Safe Travels app.

“Artificial intelligence will have vetted it and checked it, but we’ll also have some backup capacity to check at the airport, if necessary,” Lt. Gov. Green explained.

Lt. Gov. Green also said with his strategic surveillance testing of 10% of all arrivals, combined with the counties’ second tests, it will give the state a better understanding of how many pre-tested travelers are coming through positive.

Starting Oct. 19, returning residents can offer to be tested by going to hawaiicovid19.com.

Lt. Gov. Green said he’d like college students and first responders to volunteer.

“So, higher risk groups that are our own people would be ideal because we will be mingling with each other and potentially, you know, exposing one another. So, knowing we’re negative is a good thing,” he said.

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