County mayors agree pre-travel testing plan key to resuming tourism

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pre-travel testing program has been a topic of discussion for weeks. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino are supporting the plan. It’s being touted as the best, safest way to move forward. It would allow visitors who can provide a negative COVID-19 test upon arriving in Hawaii –from a verified testing location — to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is one of many lawmakers supporting the program.

“It’s game on,” Caldwell said.

Time to resume a vital piece of Hawaii’s economic pie — tourism.

After weeks of discussions and what Caldwell described as a ‘marathon meeting’ Tuesday, he said he, the three other county mayors and the governor agreed on August 1 to welcome visitors back to Hawaii with the new pre-travel testing protocol in place.

That’s in five weeks.

Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi said they are ready.

“I hope that we have earned your trust and your confidence in the way we’ve executed the plan.”

Kouchi said deciding whether to resume tourism was by far the most difficult decision he’s ever had to make in his political career. But he said the tireless effort put in by the state, city and health officials allowed him to come to his conclusion.

Yet there are concerns as some areas of the United States continue to see coronavirus cases rising.

“One of our major markets is the west coast and we see cases in California surging and yet we’re going to be welcoming visitors from those states soon,” Caldwell said.

Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green, who has been a proponent of the plan since day one, said that while the pre-travel testing program will help reduce the spread of the virus, it isn’t fool proof.

“This is not a silver bullet, but it is another part of the multi-layered system that the Department of Health has come up with to complement comprehensive tracing capacity, very important, to complement screening people for temperatures and thermal screenings, very important, and to be able to trace people constantly. That will make the difference,” Green explained.

Green said they do expect Hawaii’s coronavirus cases to increase with more visitors, but that the state is prepared to handle it.

The program is about resuming tourism safely, which is essential to the state’s economic welfare, and a necessary component in getting more than 200,000 unemployed residents back to work.

“We’re not going to see return to a level of employment we had before unless we open up to visitors and that’s what this is about today,” Caldwell said.

“We’re at a good point so this is why I’m support the reopening,” said Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.”But all of the testing and other procedures and other policies must remain in place. And we, the people of Hawaii must meet it…We want people to come to a safe destination and Hawaii is a safe destination. People are healthy and want to come to a healthy place so let’s keep it that way.”

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