Hawaii is delaying its plan to allow out-of-state visitors to return due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the state and on the mainland U.S. – a major blow to the state’s tourism industry.
The governor's office announced in late June that travelers could visit Hawaii beginning Aug. 1, with no quarantine required as long as they presented a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a news conference on Monday that the program won't begin until Sept. 1, citing “uncontrolled outbreaks and surges” on the mainland.
Several states that have seen recent spikes in positive cases, including California and Arizona, are key markets for Hawaii.
“We have always said that we will make decisions based on the health and safety of our community as the highest priority,” Ige said. “As we speak right now, the outbreaks on the mainland are not in control and we don't believe that situation will change significantly by Aug. 1 as we had hoped.”
While delaying the traveler testing program will impact the tourism sector in Hawaii, Ige said Hawaii could have an uncontrolled surge of COVID-19 if it reopened.
The state’s unemployment rate stands at 22.6%, the second highest in the nation. Since late March, anyone arriving from the mainland were required to quarantine for 14 days, a policy that was strictly enforced.
“This was not an easy decision to make. It really was a choice between two difficult options,” Ige said. “I know that this increases the burden on businesses here in the islands, especially small businesses. But we do believe that it is time to continue to protect the health and safety of our community.”
Hawaii on Monday reported three new coronavirus deaths and 23 new cases, bringing its total cases to 1,243.
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.”