By Wendy Osher
County and state leaders are making adjustments as they work to streamline operations following Thursday’s launch of pre-travel COVID-19 testing in Hawaiʻi.
With nearly 3,000 travelers screened in Maui County on Thursday, issues surfaced over long lines and problems with some visitors providing tests from non-approved facilities.
“This is only day two and we realize a number of things happened. The trusted partner program, or having approved more programs, may be the first step. The governor and the state has agreed that they are looking into it,” said Maui Mayor Michael Victorino in response to Maui Now’s questioning at a Friday press briefing.
“Hopefully by next week, they’ll have a vast majority of them approved,” said Mayor Victorino noting that dozens of other companies are under review for inclusion in the program. Under the program, trans-Pacific travelers can take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a testing partner approved by the state within 72 hours from the final leg of departure to Hawaiʻi; and if given a negative result for COVID-19, are allowed to bypass the state’s 14-day mandatory quarantine.
It was not immediately available the number of individuals who attempted to provide results from non-approved facilities in Maui County.
Mayor Victorino said staggering flights would help to alleviate long lines in the holding area of the airport. According to the Mayor, six flights arrived within two hours on Thursday, with nearly 800 people deplaning.
“You saw it in Honolulu, Kauaʻi–every island had the same problem because the airlines have schedules which make them land at certain periods of time. Some of it is dictated by where they departed from because of gates and slots for departures have to be taken up at certain times or you lose them. There’s a number of other issues–not only FAA issues, and state issues, but even what we do here,” he said.
Mayor Victorino said more screeners “staffed at pivotal times” would help to get the system to work more cohesively.
Meantime, the bump in arrivals has provided hope for the island’s heavily dependent tourism industry, with many lodging and hospitality-related businesses scheduling their reopening around this week’s launch.
Traveler Screening Update:
According to the state of Hawaiʻi Safe Travels applications, 2,981 passengers were screened on Oct.15 in Maui County. This is well above the daily visitor count which has ranged from 39 and 211 domestic visitors over the first two weeks of October; but still well below the 4,600 to 8,000 daily visitor count over the same period last year.
The breakdown includes 2,156 visitors and 825 residents. Of that number, 1,807 arrived into Kahului Airport; 22 traveled to Molokaʻi Airport; and six traveled into Lānaʻi City Airport.
“Some key takeaways we learned from yesterday is the vast majority of trans-Pacific travelers received a negative pre-departure test before coming into Maui,” said Maui Managing Director Sandy Baz.
Of the travelers that came in, 2,614 (59 percent) were exempt from the 14-day quarantine after providing a negative COVID-19 test from an approved state partner. Thirty percent were inter-county travelers with work exemptions, which is a process that has been in place for several months. Baz said “a very small percentage” (11 percent) of travelers were ordered into quarantine and will continue to be monitored, with many of them awaiting their pre-travel test results, which were not yet available from their provider when they arrived.
County of Maui Emergency Health Rules
Travelers arriving in Maui County must follow the County of Maui Emergency Health Rules including:
- Indoor and outdoor social gatherings are restricted to no more than 10 people.
- Face masks must be worn in all public spaces unless exercising or dealing with a medical condition.
- All people should maintain a minimum of six feet physical distancing from people outside of their household
- Anyone who is sick should stay home or at their place of lodging
- County parks and beach parks are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with outdoor county courts open until 8 p.m.
- No tents or structures larger than six feet are allowed.
- Grilling also is not allowed at county parks and beach parks.
Anyone not subject to quarantine may travel solely between Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi without having to take a pre-departure test.
Updated Medical Exemption Approved
The Governor has signed and approved Maui County’s updated Public Health Emergency Rules to allow Maui County residents traveling for medical appointments to be exempt from quarantine and not have to take a pre-departure test. The medical exemption is only for same day or overnight travel.
Travelers do not need to apply for a quarantine exemption, but must present their flight itinerary and doctor’s letter with date of appointment to screeners on arrival. If the medical traveler needs a travel companion, this person must be specifically named in the doctor’s letter. This exemption does not apply to any non-medical related purposes.
Maui County Status Update
- Daily Cases: 0.26 per 100,000 per day (7-day rolling average)
- Virus Control: Test Positivity Rate of 0.1% (7-day rolling average)