Has the prospect of spending your entire vacation in quarantine kept you from planning a trip to Hawaii? Good news: Starting Aug. 1, you can bypass the state’s quarantine requirement by presenting a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.
The new program, announced by Gov. David Ige on Wednesday, has not been finalized. But according to a news release from his office, Hawaii’s health department says out-of-state visitors will probably need to undergo an PCR (polymerase chain reaction, or nasal-swab) test approved by the Food and Drug Administration from a lab certified by the FDA’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Travelers will be required to provide printed or emailed pre-test certification as evidence of a negative test result,” the release said. “Travelers will be responsible for the cost of the pre-travel test.”
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Evidence of a negative test must be provided upon arrival in Hawaii, and no testing will be available at Hawaii’s airports. Without a negative test, incoming travelers will be required to quarantine.
The release did not specify how close to the traveler’s departure date the test must occur. Alaska, which has a similar policy, requires the test to be performed within 72 hours of departure and requires retesting upon arrival for anyone with a test older than five days.
Hawaiian airports will continue to do temperature checks on incoming passengers, and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees or who displays COVID-19 symptoms will be required to undergo a secondary screening at the airport. Passengers must complete the state’s Travel and Health form.
“The health of our community remains our primary focus. This multi-layered pre-travel testing and screening process allows travelers an alternative to the 14-day travel quarantine in a way that protects the health and safety of our [locals] and visitors,” Ige said in the release. “Now is the time to work together to ensure that our local businesses can safely re-open to incoming travelers.”
According to Johns Hopkins and Hawaii state data, as of Monday, Hawaii recorded 899 cases, 110 that required hospitalization and 18 that resulted in death.
State data shows the number of cases dropped in May but climbed again in June. That said, cases linked to travel or associated contact dropped precipitously and remained largely flat since the state enacted its quarantine restriction in late March. Authorities have been aggressive in enforcing the rule, arresting those who break it.
Ige encouraged Hawaii residents to avoid traveling for leisure: “I know that might sound hypocritical because we’re trying to encourage others to travel here for a vacation,” he told broadcaster KHON2. “But we do believe also that Hawaii is a safe destination, and we want to keep it that way.”
Hawaiian Airlines wasted no time letting travelers know about the new policy.
The Honolulu-based carrier sent an email to members of its frequent flyer program Thursday.
The subject line: “Welcoming you back to our island home.”
“We are excited to share that we will soon be able to welcome you back to our beautiful island home,” it said. The airline detailed the policy that begins Aug. 1 and said, “We can’t wait to have you onboard soon.”
The email ended with a link to book flights.
Judge disregards US support of Hawaii quarantine challenge
A judge said she will “disregard” the U.S. Department of Justice’s statement in support of a lawsuit challenging Hawaii’s quarantine imposed on arriving travelers.
The Justice Department’s statement said the quarantine discriminates against out-of-state travelers, even though it applies to both visitors and returning residents.
A group of people living in Hawaii, California and Nevada filed a lawsuit that says the quarantine is unfair and unnecessary.
In an order issued late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Jill Otake said she will disregard the Justice Department’s statement when deciding whether to issue a temporary restraining order against the quarantine.
The statement amounts to an attempt by the Justice Department to amend the lawsuit in a case where it is not a plaintiff, Otake said.
“The United States Department of Justice is duty-bound to defend the Constitutional rights of all people in our nation, and we will continue to do so,” the department said in a statement Thursday. “These rights include the right of citizens to travel freely anywhere in our country.”
Otake asked the plaintiffs Thursday to address the impact of Ige’s testing program on their claims.
Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney representing the plaintiffs, said Ige’s plans are unclear and won’t go into effect immediately.
Plaintiffs in a separate but similar lawsuit dropped their case Thursday.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawaii quarantine: Visitors can bypass it with negative COVID-19 test