Hawaii Officials Face Pressure To Increase Covid Testing For Visitors

Hawaii Officials Face Pressure To Increase Covid Testing For Visitors

Two months ago Hawaii decided to scrap mandatory pre-departure Covid-19 testing for fully vaccinated visitors. As the federal guidelines tighten restrictions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers, it may now need to reconsider its approach. 

Governor David Ige, who dropped entry requirements and enacted new rules relaxing restrictions, had to request people not to visit the islands since the pandemic was spiraling out of control only a few weeks later. 

The islands currently struggle with a record increase of hospitalizations and fatalities as the U.S. prepares to reopen international borders in “early November.” 

Hawaii officials have been reluctant to reintroduce testing restrictions notwithstanding the evidence that testing could help them reduce the spread of the Delta variant.

The new federal guidelines will require both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers coming to the U.S. to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test, so it may now need to compromise.  

While unvaccinated American nationals represent “an exception,” they will be “subject to stricter testing requirements.” 

Those include a test within 24 hours of their flight’s departure for the United States and an additional test when they return, said Jeff Zients, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator on Monday.

Before July, Hawaii had an average of 46 daily cases. In the first week of September, that number was up to nearly 900. Experts say that much of that was community spread fueled by the delta variant introduced through travel.

Although the local government has not yet to comment on the matter, the federal government is indeed working on a massive testing program in Hawaii. 

On Sept. 20 Oʻahu was selected for a federal pilot program that will provide free at-home COVID-19 test kits to eligible residents. 

The “Say Yes! COVID Test At-Home Testing Challenge” is the program that will provide 125,000 Oʻahu residents with eight rapid antigen tests. 

Participants will be requested to use the tests twice a week for four weeks regardless of symptoms.

The government expects to collect reliable data about the pandemic situation in the community and help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in Honolulu.