Gov. says mayors can ‘opt out’ of pre-travel testing program

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state’s pre-travel testing program starts in 9 days, but KHON2 recently learned from the Governor’s Office that county mayors can decide to “opt out” of the program. Just a day after the governor denied Kauai’s request for a post-arrival test, there is some uncertainty over what happens next for the neighbor islands.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami says an option to opt out of the state’s pre-travel test program is a new development, but says the county cannot commit to plans it does not fully understand and wants more details on what it would mean to “opt out.”

Here is Mayor Kawakami’s full statement regarding his decision on opting out of the program:

“We have not yet made a determination. Decisions must be deliberate and we can’t commit to plans we don’t fully understand. Our goal from the beginning has been to supplement the Governor and Lt. Governor’s statewide travel plan. The option to opt out is a recent development. As we understand it, our proposal was denied in part because the state aimed for consistency across the board, so visitors would not be confused. How does the option to opt out achieve that goal? If each county were to opt out, where does that leave the statewide travel plan? We need more details on what an “opt out” means for the counties, and whether that provides the option for us to implement a single-test post-arrival program.

“If we were to remain in the program, the Lt. Governor has committed to implementing enhanced testing post-arrival, such as a surveillance testing program, and we look forward to hearing details on how that will be implemented on October 15.

“Our goal is not to extend a mandatory 14-day quarantine in perpetuity. Our goal is to keep our community safe while we take a phased, responsible approach to reopening. We believed we could do that by offering an enhanced second-test program.”

In a news release, Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim said he and the other mayors discussed on Oct. 6 a two-test policy for transpacific travel, instead of the policy that goes into effect on October 15. He goes on to say they need time to work out the logistics and a decision would be made this week.

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce says the coast is very dependent on tourism and businesses have been preparing for visitors to come quarantine-free starting mid-October.

“They have contacted their suppliers, brought back their employees for training, getting everything ready to open,” said Wendy Laros, President of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. “You know, it’s a very big deal. And so we were all counting on October 15th to actually be that date.”

While there are those who feel safer with a post-travel test in place, Laros says a few businesses are hanging in there for the upcoming reopening.

“If they took their resources and use them to launch their reopenings based on this October 15th date, and then we’re told that no, you’ve got to shut down again, that’s what will be devastating,” said Laros.

A spokesperson from Honolulu Mayor Caldwell’s Office says Oahu plans to participate in the pre-travel testing program, though testing twice would be preferred. The Maui Mayor’s Office says talks with the Governor’s Office are ongoing. The state says more information on pre-travel is expected to be available hopefully on Oct 7.

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