Mayor: Virus surge makes trav­eler test­ing plan un­safe

The Maui News - - Front Page - By AU­DREY McAVOY Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Cald­well said Thurs­day it’s not safe to fol­low through with a plan to al­low out-of-state trav­el­ers to use a neg­a­tive COVID-19 test to by­pass a 14-day quar­an­tine re­quire­ment be­gin­ning Aug. 1.

The mayor cited a surge in coro­n­avirus cases in Cal­i­for­nia and other Main­land states where most of Hawaii’s tourists come from. He fur­ther pointed to de­clines in the state’s test­ing ca­pac­ity as lab­o­ra­to­ries run short on test­ing sup­plies due to high de­mand for those same sup­plies in other states.

“We know that right now the COVID-19 is on a ram­page through­out the state of Cal­i­for­nia. And they’ve lost con­trol of the virus. And so we’re con­cerned as vis­i­tors come here that they may be bring­ing the virus with them,” Cald­well said at a news con­fer­ence.

The trav­eler test­ing plan would al­low those com­ing from out of state to skip a re­quire­ment that they self­quar­an­tine for 14 days if they test neg­a­tive for COVID-19 within 72 hours be­fore ar­riv­ing.

The Honolulu City Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day urged the gover­nor to con­sider de­lay­ing the plan un­til the rate of new coro­n­avirus cases on the Main­land and in Hawaii drops sig­nif­i­cantly.

There were 36 new COVID-19 cases re­ported Thurs­day, 34 on Oahu. None of the cases were in Maui County. A record 41 cases was re­ported Tues­day with most of the cases on Oahu.

Cald­well said the state’s four county may­ors met with Gov. David Ige on Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss the is­sue but did not reach a con­clu­sion. He said they agreed to think it over and talk again Thurs­day.

Cald­well ac­knowl­edged that many who work in the tourism in­dus­try will struggle un­til it’s eas­ier for vis­i­tors to come to Hawaii.

“How do we ad­dress get­ting peo­ple back to work with keep­ing our res­i­dents safe? And it’s not one or the other, it’s find­ing that bal­ance,” he said.

The near-to­tal col­lapse of Hawaii’s tourism in­dus­try due to the pan­demic has pushed the state’s un­em­ploy­ment rate to 22.6 per­cent,

the sec­ond worst in the na­tion af­ter Ne­vada.

Ige said in a writ­ten state­ment he was meet­ing with the may­ors to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

“We are get­ting in­put from com­mu­nity lead­ers as we care­fully con­sider the health and safety of our res­i­dents and the fi­nan­cial health of our com­mu­ni­ties be­cause we know they are in­ter­con­nected,” Ige said.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gab­bard, who rep­re­sents Maui County, “strongly” urged Ige and county may­ors to con­tinue the quar­an­tine on transpa­cific trav­el­ers “be­cause of the surge of COVID-19 in­fec­tions oc­cur­ring across the coun­try, with many states ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a higher num­ber of pos­i­tive COVID-19 cases now than at any point dur­ing this pan­demic.”

She also cited “an ex­treme short­age” in test­ing agents, per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment and med­i­cal sup­plies.

“We must put the health and lives of the peo­ple of Hawaii first and take nec­es­sary ac­tions to con­tain and de­feat this virus in our state,” she said. “The travel quar­an­tine must re­main in place for the time be­ing as we fo­cus on con­tain­ing and de­feat­ing the virus, mas­sively in­creas­ing our test­ing and trac­ing ca­pac­ity, and se­cur­ing our med­i­cal sup­ply chains.”

The Maui News con­trib­uted to this report.

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