- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 17, 2020

HONOLULU (AP) - An island mayor in Hawaii is asking Gov. David Ige to consider new rules that would make a second coronavirus test mandatory for all arriving travelers to Kauai and require that everyone has an initial negative test before flying.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami made a similar request in October when the state launched its pre-travel testing program that allows travelers to skip two weeks of quarantine if they get a single negative test within 72 hours of their trip to Hawaii.

Now Kawakami wants to mandate that all air travelers get a second test three days after they arrive. They would have to remain in quarantine on Kauai during that time.

Gov. Ige denied Kawakami’s first request for mandatory second tests in October. The governor’s office said the governor is reviewing the new request Tuesday and had no further comment.

Kawakami also asked the governor to allow Kauai to require anyone flying to the island have their initial negative test result before flying. Currently, people are allowed to fly to any island in Hawaii and if the results from their first pre-travel test have not yet come back, they can quarantine in their hotel room or home until the results are available.

“We know this announcement will result in a lot of frustration for travelers and those in our visitor industry, but the outbreak of COVID-19 across the nation is occurring at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen before,” Kawakami said in a statement released Monday night. “We have the unique opportunity to see the wave of disease coming, and in order to avoid a full shutdown, we must take decisive, aggressive action.”

The statement said Kauai has had 9 travelers arrive since the launch of the state’s pre-travel testing program that did not have their test results before landing and then they came back positive once there.

Kauai also had 12 people come to the island with a negative pre-travel test and then subsequently test positive in secondary screening.

Residents of Kauai, which implemented strict lockdown measures early in the pandemic, enjoyed a mostly COVID-free summer.

“A month into the state’s Safe Travels program, it is clear that a single pre-travel test is not sufficient to protect us from the spread of COVID-19. Our cases are increasing much faster than initial state projections,” said Kawakami. “Since Oct. 15, Kaua‘i has reported 26 travel-related cases, including 14 cases from returning residents.”

Mayors across the state had urged Gov. David Ige to implement a mandatory second test, but there was pushback as the state tried to get its tourism-based economy moving again.

The governor said island counties could implement their own secondary testing programs if they wanted to.

Maui and Kauai counties decided on voluntary secondary testing for visitors. The Big Island requires secondary rapid screening upon arrival for visitors to avoid quarantine. Oahu officials have said they want to put another layer of screening in place but do not yet have the testing capacity.

Previously anyone traveling to Hawaii was required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Kawakami’s proposal would require that travelers quarantine for three days after arrival and then get a second test. If they test negative then, they would be released from quarantine.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Hawaii Sen. Glenn Wakai, chair of the Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Technology, told The Associated Press that he thinks Kauai’s plan is a good one that the state should consider for other islands.

“I fully support what Mayor Kawakami is doing, and I know he’s always been looking out for the interests of public health since the beginning,” he said.

“The governor, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to take that same approach for, I don’t know what the reason is or what the rationale might be, but I think that the mayors and the governor really need to get their coordination together,” Wakai added. “It’s kind of all over the place. And we really need some statewide leadership.”

Wakai noted that the two major markets that Hawaii has opened tourism to - the U.S. mainland and Japan - are surging with new confirmed COVID cases.

“So the two source markets that we went after are both in really bad shape,” he said.

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