Hawaii lawmakers consider standardized pandemic travel rules

  • Traveler Patty Siegel from Los Angeles gets tested for COVID-19 Nov. 25 before a planned trip to Hawaii at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that would standardize the state’s pandemic travel restrictions across the islands, a departure from the current system that allows individual counties to create their own modified safety measures.

Members of the House Finance Committee heard testimony on the bill Thursday.

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Currently, island counties have the option to opt out of the state’s “Safe Travels” program, which requires a single negative COVID-19 test before departure for Hawaii to avoid a mandatory quarantine. Counties can either require people to quarantine for 10 days, implement additional screening requirements such as secondary testing or create modified quarantines.

Any departures from the state plan must be approved by the governor.

The measure would require all counties to allow travelers to be exempt from quarantine if they get a negative COVID-19 test under the state’s program. But it would also limit the state’s ability to make rapid changes to rules without legislative involvement.

The bill would also effectively end a program on the island of Kauai that now requires visitors to have two negative COVID-19 tests to get out of quarantine.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people do not travel at all right now. But if they must the agency suggests people test before and after their trips and quarantine on either end, a model Kauai adopted to allow some visitors.

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Kauai offers two options. People can get a negative pre-travel test and then spend three days on another island before testing again and traveling to Kauai.

Travelers can also participate in a three-day “resort bubble” quarantine at a county-approved property before getting a second test to be allowed into the community.

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