When Hawaii launched a program in October allowing visitors to bypass its 14-day coronavirus quarantine by showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test, thousands of travelers took advantage of the offer.
Hawaii’s statistics show that 594,628 visitors arrived in the state from Oct. 15, when the bypass program took effect, to Dec. 31.
Now that the bypass program has been in effect for a couple months, Hawaii has made some adjustments. The most notable is that travelers must upload a negative test result before they depart the mainland. Previously, you were covered as long as you had the results when you landed.
Here’s what to know if you’re flying to Hawaii.
You need a negative test result before you fly
Hawaii requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test before you take off in order to avoid the 14-day quarantine. Before your flight, you need to make an account with Hawaii’s Safe Travels site and register a negative COVID-19 test that was taken no more than 72 hours before departure.
The good news is that Hawaii has expanded its list of trusted testing partners.
You also can get a test kit from American Airlines, United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. Passengers are responsible for the cost of the test, which is $129 at American and $119 at United and Hawaiian. Hawaiian lets you use miles to pay for it. In addition to at-home options, several airlines, including United and Alaska, have partnerships with health care providers for on-site testing before travel to Hawaii, but be sure to make an appointment in advance given strong demand. Check to see if your health insurer covers the cost of testing.
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Kauai: 14-day quarantine or ‘resort bubbles’
Kauai had zero COVID-19 deaths and just 59 cases before the quarantine-bypass program was launched. Now the island, which has just nine ICU beds, has opted out of the program after seeing an increase in cases traced to both visitors and residents.
Kauai had 70 new cases in the six weeks since it started participating; 57 of those cases were related to travel. Sixteen people received a positive test result after arriving, and two people had tested positive but traveled anyway. Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said Kauai police arrested those two individuals on charges of reckless endangerment.
In a Nov. 30 address, Kawakami said Kauai would opt out of the bypass program temporarily. That means that all arriving travelers, regardless of their COVID-19 test status, must quarantine for 14 days. Visitors have to stay in their hotel rooms and get food delivered unless they are staying at an approved “resort bubble” hotel.
Beginning Jan. 5, Kauai started allowing those staying at resort bubble hotels who present proof of a negative test upon departure and receive another negative test three days after arrival to be released from quarantine. Travelers must pay the cost for both tests. You’re not allowed to rent a car until you are out of quarantine.
What are resort bubbles?
Resort bubbles, or Enhanced Movement Quarantine properties, give you a little more freedom than quarantining in a hotel room. These properties have received approval from Kauai to allow visitors to leave their rooms and enjoy the pool and other resort amenities as long as they don’t leave the property.
Approved resort bubbles are:
Kauai says three other properties are in the process of being approved for resort bubble status. Requirements for a resort bubble hotel include extra security, mask mandates and guests must agree to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet while at the resort.
Big Island requires 2nd test on arrival
The county of Hawai’i requires a negative COVID-19 test result before departure as well as a second test upon arrival at an airport. The second test is free.
Initially, the county was testing 100% of the people who arrived. The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported that was scaled back to 25% at Kona Airport due to the lack of space.
Janet Snyder, spokesperson for Mayor Harry Kim, told The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, that the county is randomly selecting between 25% and 100% of arriving passengers for a second test and is paying for that testing using CARES Act funds.
She also said the mayor is still “calling for 100% of people in the state’s negative test exception program to be tested on arrival.”
You can connect with Arizona Republic Consumer Travel Reporter Melissa Yeager through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.