Has the prospect of spending your entire Hawaiian vacation in quarantine kept you from planning a trip there? Good news: Starting Aug. 1, you can bypass the state's quarantine requirement by presenting a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival.

The new program, announced by Gov. David Ige on Wednesday, has not been finalized. But according to a news release from his office, Hawaii's health department says out-of-state visitors will likely need to undergo an PCR (polymerase chain reaction, or nasal-swab) test approved by the Food and Drug Administration from a lab certified by the FDA's Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Travelers will be required to provide printed or emailed pre-test certification as evidence of a negative test result," the release said. "Travelers will be responsible for the cost of the pre-travel test." 

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Evidence of a negative test must be provided upon arrival in Hawaii, and no testing will be available at Hawaii's airports. Without a negative test, incoming travelers will still be required to quarantine.

The release did not specify how close to the traveler's departure date the test must occur. Alaska, which has a similar policy, requires the test to be performed within 72 hours of departure and requires retesting upon arrival for anyone with a test older than five days.

Hawaiian airports will continue to do temperature checks on incoming passengers, and anyone with a temperature over 100.4℉  or who displays COVID-19 symptoms will be required to undergo a secondary screening while at the airport. Passengers must also complete the state's Travel and Health form.

“The health of our community remains our primary focus. This multi-layered pre-travel testing and screening process allows travelers an alternative to the 14-day travel quarantine in a way that protects the health and safety of our [locals] and visitors,” Ige said in the release. “Now is the time to work together to ensure that our local businesses can safely re-open to incoming travelers.”

According to Johns Hopkins and Hawaii state data, as of June 24, Hawaii has the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in the U.S. It has recorded 835 cases, 105 of which required hospitalization and 17 which resulted in death. 

State data also shows the number of cases dropped in May but climbed again in June.  That said, cases linked to travel or associated contact have dropped precipitously and remained largely flat since the state enacted its quarantine restriction in late March. It has also been aggressive in enforcing the rule, arresting those who break it.

Hawaiian Airlines wasted no time letting travelers know about the new policy.

The Honolulu-based carrier sent an email to members of its frequent flyer program on Thursday.

The subject line: “Welcoming you back to our island home.’’

“We are excited to share that we will soon be able to welcome you back to our beautiful island home,’’ it said. The airline detailed the new policy that begins Aug. 1 and said, “We can’t wait to have you onboard soon."

It ends, of course, with a link to book flights.

Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson

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