More lawmakers call for COVID-19 tests in passenger screenings


HONOLULU (KHON2) — U.S. Transportation officials have told state lawmakers the federal government cannot prevent a COVID-19 testing program for travelers, but the state cannot stop someone who does not want to be tested from boarding a plane.

Hawaii State Representative Gene Ward said lawmakers got a response from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Rep. Ward and House Select COVID-19 Committee Member, Rep. Bob McDermott, proposed COVID-19 tests for travelers to the rest of the house committee under a proposal to reopen the tourism industry.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case and Lt. Gov. Josh Green have shared similar ideas. Green advocates for travelers to get a COVID-19 test prior to traveling.

Green said, “No matter what, my office will reach out internationally and encourage people to get tested before traveling where ever they go. It’s the right thing to do from a health care perspective.”

There are roadblocks preventing mandatory test enforcement according to the response Ward got from the federal officials.

Green said, “There does not appear to be a barrier for states to make this choice, but also there’s no way to legally compel someone to take the test.”

Honolulu City Councilmember Ron Menor, adds his support to screen travelers for the disease. He said if a passenger cannot show they have tested negative, a test should be done when they arrive.

Menor said, “Travelers will be given a choice of having the test administered on the day of arrival or they can choose to complete the 14-day travel quarantine.”

State lawmakers are pushing for tougher passenger screenings as a way to open up tourism safely and lift the 14-day quarantine.

The Hawaii Attorney General’s office said even if a test result verifies a visitor is negative for the disease, there is always the risk of future exposure.

Part of the statement said:

“CDC currently advises that a negative test does not mean you won’t get sick or that you won’t spread the diseases. Therefore, at least for right now with the current state of the testing science, providing the state with proof of a negative test will not shorten the period of quarantine.” 

Green said the mandatory 14-day quarantine will eventually come to an end and proof of a person’s health status could be a safer way to welcome back visitors.

“There’s no way we will be able to maintain a 14-day quarantine and open up to meaningful tourism, it just won’t happen,” Green said. “The best way to do it is to have people take a test willingly, that’s the best way to decrease risk.”


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