Hawaii Gov. David Ige has hinted about it for weeks as COVID-19 cases in the state surged, and on Tuesday he made it official: The state won’t reopen to tourism until October at the earliest.
The planned Sept. 1 start of a program that would allow out-of-state visitors to bypass Hawaii’s strict 14-day quarantine upon arrival by presenting a negative COVID-19 test at the airport has been delayed until at least Oct. 1, Ige said late Tuesday.
“We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii as well as key markets on the mainland to determine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel (COVID-19) testing program,” he said.
The delay, the second since the program was announced in June, will affect passengers who bet on the Sept. 1 reopening and bought airline tickets to Hawaii, airline flight schedules and, of course, Hawaii’s decimated tourism industry. The quarantine began in March and the latest extension means much of the tourism year will be wiped out as few visitors want to be confined to their hotel or vacation rental.
Ige said the state will announce a new date in advance so “that the hospitality industry would have the time they need to staff up” and support the new COVID-19 option for visitors.
The state also reinstituted a ban on social gatherings, inside and outside, and other restrictions on Oahu, home to Honolulu and the site of most of the state’s coronavirus cases.
Hawaii, initially seen as a model for containing coronavirus spread with just 900 cases in total between February and June, has seen a surge since early July. On a single day last week, the state reported more than 300 cases. On Tuesday, 134 new cases were announced. The total number of cases in the state to date is 5,349; the death toll, 41.
“We cannot deny that Hawaii is seeing a surge in the positive COVID-19 cases that we’re seeing,” Ige said Tuesday. “There are numerous clusters and wide community spread.”
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Last week, Ige said officials wanted to see another “few days of data” to assess the impact of new restrictions announced, including the closing of beaches and parks in Honolulu.
“With the case count increasing the way it has, it would be very difficult to implement and start the pre-travel (COVID-19) testing program on Sept. 1,” he said.