Kim seeks expansion of post-arrival COVID screening at Kona airport

  • KIM

Mayor Harry Kim wants to expand post-arrival testing at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole after scaling back testing efforts there earlier this month.

On Oct. 15, Hawaii County implemented a program allowing travelers arriving on the island to skip a two-week quarantine by testing negative for COVID-19 both before and immediately after arrival.

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The post-arrival testing effort was scaled back in early November after only a handful of the thousands of travelers tested positive for COVID-19.

At that time, Kim said 25% of tans-Pacific travelers arriving at the Kona airport would be given a post-flight antigen test.

Kim said Friday that the testing in Kona also was curtailed because of the lack of available space at the airport to conduct the testing.

But because cases are surging on the mainland, Kim said it’s important to do more post-arrival screenings.

In a conversation with Gov. David Ige on Friday, Kim said he spoke about the importance of the second test and asked for Ige’s support.

The mayor said Ige assured him that he would call state airport officials “to see what they could do to give us space and expand testing.”

Kim hopes the effort will be successful and the county can go back to testing all trans-Pacific arrivals.

“The purpose is to monitor what’s coming in and if action needs to be taken,” he explained.

The post-arrival test at Hilo International Airport remains unchanged. In Hilo, 100% of nonexempt trans-Pacific passengers are tested upon arrival.

According to the mayor, Ige told Kim that the state also is evaluating ways to test individuals, such as essential workers who previously would be exempt from quarantine requirements.

Those efforts, along with changes made to the state’s pre-travel testing program — which will require trans-Pacific passengers to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure — are “three things that will help screen out people that are (COVID-19) positive coming to Hawaii Island,” Kim said.

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While he didn’t provide the number of positive post-flight rapid antigen tests the county has seen since Oct. 15, as of Friday, Kim said 28 follow-up polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests were positive.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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