Scratch that August trip to Hawaii. The state just extended its quarantine until Sept. 1
Hawaii is delaying its plan to allow out-of-state visitors to the return to the vacation hot spot by a month due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the state and on the mainland U.S.
In late June, the governor’s office announced that travelers could visit Hawaii beginning Aug. 1, no quarantine required, by presenting a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding. Without one, passengers arriving from the mainland would have to strictly quarantine for 14 days, a policy in place since March that has scared away most tourists and decimated Hawaii’s tourism industry. The surge in cases on the U.S. mainland has made it harder for people in many states to get tested.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a news conference late Monday that the program won’t begin until Sept. 1, a decision he said was not taken lightly.
“We have always said that we will make decisions based on the health and safety of our community as the highest priority,” Ige said.
The news comes as Hawaii on Monday reported three new coronavirus deaths and 23 new cases, bringing its total cases to 1,243. On Saturday, it reported a single-day record of 42 cases, Ige said. That is a fraction of other states, thanks in part to the island state’s isolation and the strict quarantine announced in March as the pandemic gripped the country.
Ige cited “uncontrolled outbreaks and surges” on the mainland as a key factor in the state’s decision, singling out several states with spikes, including California and Arizona, big sources of visitors to Hawaii.
“As we speak right now, the outbreaks on the mainland are not in control and we don’t believe that situation will change significantly by Aug. 1 as we had hoped,” Ige said.
College students returning to school in Hawaii will be exempt from the extended quarantine, he said.
Many in Hawaii’s business community had been looking forward to the testing program as it would make it easier for tourists to visit and potentially boost the economy. The quarantine requirement has virtually shut down tourism to the state since it took effect in late March. Hotels have closed and the unemployment rate stands at 22.6%, the second highest in the nation.
Ige said he and the state’s mayors, whom he consulted, understood the gravity of the choices they were presented with. On the one hand, he said, Hawaii could have an uncontrolled surge of COVID-19 if it reopened. On the other, delaying the traveler testing program would risk further economic damage.
“I know that this increases the burden on businesses here in the islands, especially small businesses. But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community,” Ige said at a news conference.