Hawaii County will continue testing trans-Pacific arrivals for COVID-19 through at least February thanks to continued partnerships with private philanthropists.
The county last month, under the new administration of Mayor Mitch Roth, announced that a partnership between Hawaii County and a private philanthropist ensured the post-arrival testing would continue through Jan. 15.
“Our current partnership with private philanthropists guarantees our ability to continue post-arrival testing, at least through the end of February,” said Cyrus Johnasen, a spokesman for Roth, on Tuesday. “We will continue to work with our partners to assess the situation and will consider extensions accordingly.”
According to Johnasen, the county has been testing all trans-Pacific travelers since late December.
On Oct. 15, under the administration of previous Mayor Harry Kim, 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.
Although Kim initially scaled back those post-arrival testing efforts weeks later — testing up to 25% of travelers arriving at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole instead of all arrivals — the county resumed testing of all trans-Pacific arrivals later in November.
Post-arrival tests are being done at the Hilo and Kona airports.
Johnasen said the county paid Premier Medical Group $2.79 million for post-arrival testing with federal coronavirus relief funding, but it is unclear how much has been spent by its partners for testing efforts.
According to Johnasen, the county has conducted 67,653 post-arrival tests, and 102 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon arrival.
“Any added layer of protection for our residents is vital to our communities’ health and safety,” he said. “Each positive case identified at the airport helps reduce the spread of COVID-19 to hundreds, if not thousands, of our friends, families and neighbors.
“We, as a county, have been fortunate to see some of the lowest infection rates in the state, and we certainly attribute that to all of the preventative measures in place, including post-arrival testing.”
According to travel data provided by the state on hawaiicovid19.com, 228,150 travelers have arrived on the Big Island between Oct. 15 — when Gov. David Ige’s pre-travel testing program went into effect — and Monday.
Of those, 164,381 arrived in Kona, 42,668 arrived in Hilo and 750 arrived in Waimea.
Some 93,754 were traveling for pleasure, 46,485 were returning residents, 36,642 were visiting friends or relatives and 17,177 were essential workers.
Of the arrivals, 154,838 were exempt from mandatory quarantine requirements because they received a negative COVID-19 test as part of the state’s Safe Travels program.
Email Stephanie Salmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.