Hawaii de­lays start of travel pro­gram

Sept. 1, skip quar­an­tine with a neg­a­tive test

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Dawn Gilbertson

Hawaii de­layed its plan to al­low out-of-state visi­tors to re­turn to the va­ca­tion hot spot by a month be­cause of an in­crease in coro­n­avirus cases in the state and on the U.S. main­land.

In late June, the gov­er­nor’s office an­nounced that trav­el­ers could visit Hawaii be­gin­ning Aug. 1, no quar­an­tine re­quired, by pre­sent­ing a neg­a­tive COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of board­ing a flight. With­out one, pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing from the main­land would have to strictly quar­an­tine for 14 days, a pol­icy in place since March that has scared away most tourists and wrecked Hawaii’s tourism in­dus­try. The surge in cases has made it harder for peo­ple in many states to get tested.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a news con­fer­ence late Mon­day that the travel pro­gram won’t be­gin un­til Sept. 1, a de­ci­sion he said was not made lightly.

“We have al­ways said that we will make de­ci­sions based on the health and safety of our com­mu­nity as the high­est pri­or­ity,” Ige said.

Mon­day, Hawaii re­ported three more coro­n­avirus deaths and 23 new cases, bring­ing its to­tal cases to 1,243. Satur­day, it re­ported a sin­gle-day record of 42 cases, Ige said. That is a frac­tion of other states, thanks in part to the is­land state’s iso­la­tion and the strict quar­an­tine an­nounced in March as the pan­demic gripped the coun­try.

Ige cited “un­con­trolled out­breaks and surges” on the main­land as a fac­tor in the state’s de­ci­sion, sin­gling out sev­eral states with spikes, in­clud­ing Cal­i­for­nia and Ari­zona, big sources of visi­tors to Hawaii.

Col­lege stu­dents re­turn­ing to school in Hawaii will be ex­empt from the ex­tended quar­an­tine, he said.

Many in Hawaii’s busi­ness com­mu­nity had looked for­ward to the test­ing pro­gram as it would make it eas­ier for tourists to visit and po­ten­tially boost the econ­omy. The quar­an­tine re­quire­ment has vir­tu­ally shut down tourism to the state. Ho­tels closed, and the un­em­ploy­ment rate stands at 22.6%, the sec­ond-high­est in the na­tion.

Hawaii is not the first state to pause or back­track on its re­open­ing plans. It is hap­pen­ing across the coun­try as COVID-19 cases spike. Mon­day, Cal­i­for­nia Gov. Gavin New­som an­nounced the statewide clo­sure of in­door din­ing at restau­rants and other mea­sures. Last week, Las Ve­gas bars that don’t serve food were shut down.

Travel re­stric­tions are in­creas­ing, too. New York, New Jersey and Con­necti­cut re­quire visi­tors from COVID-19 hot spots to quar­an­tine for 14 days, and Chicago added a sim­i­lar mea­sure.

CALEB JONES/AP

A Na­tional Guard mem­ber takes the tem­per­a­ture of an­other ar­riv­ing at the in­ter­na­tional air­port in Honolulu on April 21.

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