Travelers Heading To Hawaii Anew After Pre-Flight Tests For COVID-19

Tourists board flights to islands under new rules requiring negative COVID-19 tests before takeoff.

Travelers Heading To Hawaii Anew After Pre-Flight Tests For COVID-19
Caleb Jones / AP

Hawaii is welcoming back tourists after easing rules that required visitors to quarantine for two weeks. But tourists and locals must wear masks. And now, to avoid quarantine, visitors must take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel - and get a negative result - before boarding flights to the islands.

The new state requirements are intended as a remedy to ease devastating impacts on Hawaii's tourism economy. Hawaii, with 1.3 million people, has employed strict rules to ward off the coronavirus. 

To date, the state has reported some 14,000 COVID-19 cases and 180 deaths. That's roughly one-third of the numbers in a more populous state: Idaho. 

But Hawaii has suffered 100,000 job losses, with the dramatic drop in visitation wiping out more than half of its travel and leisure workforce.

Hawaii state Sen. Glenn Wakai applauded the new pre-travel testing requirements. But he worries that the measures are insufficient and that plan is (quote) "full of holes."

"You know we can't control the people that San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Seattle sends us. But we in Hawaii have total control over our airports and we should really use that as a backstop to make sure that we are bringing and inviting people here to Hawaii who are not going to infect the local community."

Hawaiian islands have different rules for visitors. The big island of Hawaii requires another virus test upon arrival for tourists to avoid quarantine. Maui and Kauai offer voluntary tests and officials on Oahu are contemplating a secondary screening program, but so far lack the necessary testing capacity.