By MELISSA TANJI
Maui County’s requirement for a second COVID-19 test for trans-Pacific travelers could begin May 4 or sometime within the first week of May, Mayor Michael Victorino said Tuesday.
The new rule will require all trans-Pacific travelers — even those who have participated in the state’s pre-travel testing program — to take a rapid COVID-19 test upon arrival at Kahului Airport. Those who refuse will be subject to the ongoing mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Victorino confirmed the estimated start date the same day that Gov. David Ige announced the state’s plans to kick off a vaccination program for interisland travelers who have been vaccinated in Hawaii. Those travelers will be able to bypass quarantine and a COVID-19 pre-travel test with proof of vaccination.
Travelers from the Mainland will still need to follow the Safe Travels pre-testing program, as the vaccination exemption currently only applies to travel in between counties.
When asked if it still made sense to do a second test on Maui even with the vaccination travel program getting underway, Victorino said he would still go through with it because the county is interested in finding out how many COVID-19 cases are related to travel.
Maui is averaging 18 new cases a day and a test positivity rate of 2.4 percent on a seven-day rolling average, and state health officials have blamed the consistent level of high cases on a highly transmissible variant first found in California.
“Maui has to introduce a secondary test to make sure that we are statistically correct that our visitors and travelers are not the ones bringing in a larger number of cases that we had in the past,” Victorino said.
The mayor said he would exempt travelers from the second test if they have proof that they have been fully vaccinated, similar to what Hawaii County has been doing under a pilot program it recently launched.
(At a county news conference Wednesday, Victorino clarified that exempting travelers from a second test if they are fully vaccinated is under consideration.)
“We will see how it all works out,” he said.
Ige said during a news conference with the Neighbor Island mayors on Tuesday that the state is committed to working with Maui County and Victorino.
“It is about a layered approach to the health and well-being of our community, and every layer is important to reduce incoming travelers who may be infected by COVID-19,” Ige said. “And I think most importantly, it is a balancing act of ensuring or trying to ensure that we minimize those who may be traveling who are infected at the same time, wanting to encourage our residents who are vaccinated to have the ability to travel.”
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