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Hawaii delays reopening tourism to Sept amid mainland COVID surge

A view of Waikiki Beach looking toward Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Source: Hawaii News Now

Honolulu, HAWAII — In a major blow to the tourism industry, the governor has announced plans to delay until Sept. 1 a program that would allow trans-Pacific travelers to skip quarantine in Hawaii if they test negative for COVID-19.

Gov. David Ige said he delayed the launch of traveler pre-testing program, which was set to begin Aug. 1, because COVID-19 outbreaks in several states are “not in control” and pushing infections to record highs.

He acknowledged that the delay will hit businesses that rely on visitors hard.

“This was not an easy decision to make. It really was a choice between two difficult options,” he said.

The governor’s decision extends the 14-day mandatory quarantine for all trans-Pacific travelers through the end of August as the state continues to hammer out the details of how the testing program will work.

Ige has faced mounting pressure from several corners, including from all four county mayors, to push back the planned reopening of tourism given the surge in cases on the mainland. Hawaii has also seen a worrisome increase in infections and on Monday reported three new COVID-19 deaths.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday that the industry wants to “welcome back our visitors once our state is ready to do so in a safe manner that will hopefully avoid the need to backtrack in the future.”

HTA said it would update the industry on the rules and procedures once the state provides them.

Meanwhile, a new survey appears to show residents are siding with the governor on the delay in reopening tourism. The University of Public Policy Center polled more than 600 residents to get their thoughts and found 8 in 10 don’t want tourists to return right now. They also trust government to keep them safe.

The tourism plan, first announced on June 24, was considered by many to be a lifeline to Hawaii’s shuttered visitor industry. But the plan hit a number of roadblocks in recent days: The mainland has seen record high in new COVID-19 infections and shortage of testing capacity are being reported in a number of areas.

“We did believe it would be in the best interests of everyone here in Hawaii to delay the start of the program,” Ige said, in a news conference at the state Capitol building.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and members of the Hawaii County Council had spoken out against state’s plan, urging the governor to reconsider its implementation.

Read more at Hawaii News Now