Business Traveler|October/November 2020
The Aloha State is caught in a COVID-19 limbo, somewhere between welcome and farewell

Vacationing in Hawaii has always been synonymous with relaxation, sandy beaches, tropical drinks and breathtaking sunsets. Then COVID-19 hit.

Initially, Hawaii had one of the lowest incidents of COVID-19 outbreaks for a US state.

Hawaii officials had hoped to reopen the state on Aug. 1 to visitors possessing proof of a recent and valid negative COVID-19 test, but pushed that reopening back to Sept. 1. However, after some continued spikes in COVID cases, Governor Dave Ige moved that date to Oct. 15 as the earliest Hawaii may reopen. Like many closings and openings over COVID, those dates remain moving targets.

The opening of Hawaii to mainland American visitors relies on a program that would allow those visitors to bypass Hawaii's strict 14-day quarantine upon arrival by presenting a negative COVID-19 test at the airport.

We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii as well as key markets on the mainland to determine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel (COVID-19) testing program, Ige says. This latest extension means much of the year will be wiped out as few visitors want to be confined to their hotel or vacation rental for half a month.

Josh Green, the lieutenant governor and a practicing emergency room doctor, was worried earlier in the year, but now, We’ve beefed up our contact tracing and testing capacity by orders of magnitude,” he says. “And a lot of our understanding about the virus has matured. We’re stronger, and we can definitely manage it.”

Ige says the new date was announced well in advance so that the hospitality industry would have the time they need to staffup'' and support the new COVID-19 option for visitors.

Oahu is currently on lockdown with non-essential businesses closed. The state also reinstituted a ban on social gatherings, inside and outside, and other restrictions on Oahu, home to Honolulu, Waikiki and the majority of the state's coronavirus cases.

With the recent increase in cases on the islands, it is unknown if the state will reopen with only a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test once a date is set. So far, plans calls for a negative result from an FDA-approved test from a CLIA-certified laboratory taken within 72 hours of arrival in Honolulu. The state has said testing will not be done at the airport.



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October/November 2020