Hawaii Imposes New Protocol for Tourism During Pandemic

Hawaii offered an alternative to its mandatory quarantine for out-of-state travel on Thursday, after strict guidelines sought to keep the coronavirus at bay since March.

Gov. David Ige signed a 14th supplementary emergency proclamation on Tuesday, extending the COVID-related emergency period through Nov. 30, while also initiating new protocols for travel to the state — allowing travelers to bypass the 14-day quarantine period by receiving a negative test starting Oct. 15.

The two-week quarantine protocol has been in effect since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic made air travel nearly obsolete, delivering a blow to the tourist-centric economy. The state saw low numbers of confirmed cases between the quarantine’s initiation and the beginning of the summer. Although the new testing protocol was first announced in June, spikes in cases throughout the summer led to implementation delays.

Since February, the state has lost 53% of its travel and leisure jobs, according to a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts. With 19.3% of its total employment in the tourism industry, Hawaii was hit harder than any other state. According to the report, the state is projected to lose 19.6% of general fund tax revenue due to the tourism decline.

Although cases in Hawaii have not returned to the lows they saw earlier this year, the state’s willingness to sacrifice its economy for safety may be dwindling. The Aloha State’s economy is largely based on tourism — with 1 in 5 jobs related to the leisure/hospitality sector — and the state has seen nearly 100,000 job losses.

Hawaii government officials are pursuing this latest testing policy to help reopen its economy. The testing policy, which requires that a traveler be tested from one of the state-approved testing facilities within 72 hours of travel, has been in the works for the last few months to reopen the state to tourism, but the implementation was in question.

Beyond the test requirement for traveling to the state, each island and county has its own limitations and protocols. For example, the islands of Kauai and Maui will offer the option to take a second COVID-19 test days after arrival. And on the Big Island, travelers must also take a rapid test upon arrival.

Travelers must also register with the Safe Travels Hawaii program before embarking on their trip and must complete a mandatory health form.

With a 90% decrease in passengers flying to Hawaii in early October, as compared to October 2019, the state expects that rate to change slowly as the new protocols may encourage more travel. Ige believes the state will only see 2,000 to 3,000 new arrivals daily, which is about 10% of the pre-pandemic average, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Hawaii leads the nation with the largest percentage losses in leisure and hospitality of any state, according to the Pew report, at 53%, followed by New York and Vermont.

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Hawaii Imposes New Protocol for Tourism During Pandemic originally appeared on usnews.com

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