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Big Island Gets Governor Agreement 'In Concept' For Second Test As State Prepares To Reopen

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

Updated: 10/10/2020, 12:05 p.m. Gov. David Ige has tentatively agreed to let Hawaii Island impose a second test on arriving tourists following a pre-flight test for COVID-19, but he has not yet signed off completely, his office said today. This comes as the state health department reports two more deaths and 73 new cases of the virus.

"The governor has agreed in concept but the document is still being reviewed and has not been signed," Ige's communications director Cindy McMillan said in an email to HPR.

Neighbor Island mayors have pressed for a second test that visitors would need to take to avoid the 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific travelers when the state reopens starting on Thursday. Kauai and Maui have been rebuffed by the governor in asking for second tests. Hawaii Island may be the first to succeed.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported today that Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said Ige tentatively approved his proposal Friday after the mayor secured a commitment for an unlimited supply of tests using up to $3.5 million in CARES Act funds.

Kim told KHON-TV that he was "misinterpreted" when he said his county would opt out of the state's pre-test plan.

Kauai and Maui are awaiting Ige's decisions on their separate proposals for second tests.

McMillan said she has not aware of any decisions on Kauai's and Maui's proposals.

Maui has agreed to participate in the state's pre-test program, but Mayor Michael Victorino wants the governor to urge travelers to voluntarily take a second test after they arrive in the county.

"We are also pushing the state to roll out its contact tracing app and surveillance testing program before visitors arrive on Oct. 15," Victorino said in a statement yesterday.

The surveillance testing program is Lt. Gov. Josh Green's response to critics who say a one-test program is not safe enough as the state prepares to open up.

Green has proposed to test about 10 percent of arriving travelers, estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 a day initially, to gauge how many of the visitors may be harboring the virus.

Victorino has also asked that Maui County residents who travel only between Maui, Molokai and Lanai be spared the 14-day quarantine for interisland travel.

He's also asked that interisland travelers be allowed to participate in the pre-travel testing program that is now only open to trans-Pacific visitors and returning residents.

Kauai's proposal for a second test to be taken several days after a visitor arrives on the island was rejected by Ige. But Mayor Derek Kawakami submitted a revised plan on Thursday.

The plan would combine a voluntary testing program with a tiered reopening system similar to Honolulu's that would allow the Kauai to automatically opt out of the pre-travel plan if the one-week average of daily COVID cases reaches 5 to 8 infections.

"We do have limited public health and hospital capacity, and we must do everything we can to ensure we do not exceed that capacity," Kawakami said in his daily video update yesterday.

Oahu has opted into the pre-test program. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said while he supports the concept, the state currently lacks the capacity for a second test.

The health department reported today that 59 of the 73 new cases was on Oahu. Hawaii Island, which has been seeing a surge in cases, recorded 14 new cases. No new cases were reported on Kauai County or Maui County.

One case from Hawaii Island and one for Oahu were removed from the counts due to updated information.

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