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Hawaiʻi County Mayor Wants State to Require COVID-19 Tests for All Travelers

AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File

HILO, Hawaiʻi — Big Island officials are asking the state to reinstate a pre-travel testing program for all visitors and residents flying into the state, regardless of vaccination status.

Hawaiʻi previously required tests for all travelers to avoid quarantine upon arrival, but Gov. David Ige decided earlier this year to allow vaccinated travelers to skip the testing.

Now the islands are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 that has surpassed daily case records from earlier spikes in the pandemic, and hospitals are filling up.

“The consistent rise of COVID-19 cases within the state of Hawaiʻi and across the country has reached record heights and has put an unbearable strain on our health systems and communities at-large,” Mayor Mitch Roth wrote in a letter to Ige on Wednesday. “On Hawaiʻi Island alone, our hospitals are at capacity and are unable to in-take any more critical care patients.”

Hospitals on Oʻahu, the state’s most populous island, have been operating at or near capacity and have periodically run out of intensive care unit beds this week.

Hawaiʻi County will be taking “drastic measures” to slow the spread of coronavirus but will rely on the state to mitigate travel-related spread, Roth said.

Roth is also considering canceling the Ironman World Championship and closing Big Island beaches.

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