County civil attorneys were ironing out details of a plan to be submitted to Gov. David Ige to allow interisland travelers to come to the Big Island without a 14-day quarantine as of late Friday afternoon, Mayor Harry Kim said.
Kim said that, under his proposal, interisland passengers to the Big Island will be exempted from quarantine if they pass a COVID-19 test after arriving, but will have to quarantine until the results of the test are received. Those who fail the test will be subject to the 14-day quarantine, which Kim referred to Friday as hypocritical.
“The hypocrisy of it is, we’re not doing a good job of monitoring that,” Kim said. “However, all you have to do to get out of quarantine is to schedule a test (to be taken after arrival on the Big Island). And once the test shows you’re cleared, you’re free from the quarantine.
“As you know, we have regular testing scheduled, so you can get it free. … And because of the rapid time they can turn around the tests, you can plan it so you can be no more than one night in quarantine.”
Kim said those in quarantine would be allowed out to travel to the testing site — whether it be one of the county’s regularly scheduled free tests, or to a physician or urgent care facility on the Big Island.
“Any of these certified places,” Kim said. “For example, S&G (a Kailua-Kona laboratory) has convenient testing seven days a week, and you get passage or not that same day.”
Asked if arriving interisland passengers could also do the rapid-resent antigen test at the airport with trans-Pacific arrivals to avoid quarantine, Kim replied, “I don’t see why not?”
He then qualified that reply, saying he hadn’t discussed that possibility in particular with corporation counsel lawyers working on the written proposal, adding, “I just gave them a general what I want.”
Asked about testing logistics at the airport, Kim said he was “assured” by Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group “that the number of tests available for Hawaii Island is unlimited, so that’s not a problem.”
“I would imagine if you see that line (of trans-Pacific arrivals), especially in Kona, and the things you’ve got to go through — registration and all that — I would just go and get my test elsewhere,” Kim said.
The mayor added that those going to Maui or Kauai — who would require a negative COVID-19 result for a test administered on the Big Island within 72 hours of travel to avoid quarantine — also would avoid quarantine or testing upon return to the Big Island if they return within 72 hours of the test that yielded a negative result.
As of Thursday, trans-Pacific travelers arriving at any of Hawaii Island’s three airports — Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hilo International Airport and Waimea-Kohala Airport — with a negative COVID-19 test administered by one of the state’s “trusted” partners within 72 hours of departure for Hawaii can bypass quarantine by testing negative on a rapid-response antigen test administered upon arrival. Those who fail the antigen test will be required to immediately take a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR test, and will be required to quarantine at a hotel until receiving a negative PCR test result.
Those who refuse all tests but fly here are still subject to quarantine for 14 days at a hotel. Short-term vacation rentals are not approved as quarantine residences by the county.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, on Thursday, 8,219 trans-Pacific passengers arrived in Hawaii on direct flights from out of state. That includes 4,903 arrivals in Honolulu, 1,675 on Maui, 944 in Kona and 697 on Kauai. That’s more than a third of the 22,344 who arrived in Hawaii during the entire month of August.
Kim had rejected a plan Ige approved for Mike Victorino and Derek Kawakami, the mayors of Maui and Kauai, respectively, to allow arriving interisland passengers to avoid the quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours prior to travel to their islands.
The mayor had an uneasy four-hour-plus appearance Wednesday before the Hawaii County Council and, after being grilled by lawmakers as to why there was a plan for trans-Pacific arrivals but not for interisland arrivals, said he’d make a recommendation to Ige by Friday on a way to reopen interisland travel.
Kim said his staff is working weekends on exemption applications to the current quarantine for medical travel and said another facet of the plan he’ll present to Ige would be that quarantine exemptions allowed for medical travel would be good for a month, instead of applications being considered on a trip-by-trip basis.
“Some folks have to travel weekly for medical,” Kim said. “I’m looking to make it easier for them.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.