What to Know About Travel to Hawaii in the Time of COVID-19

While the rapidly-changing social climate surrounding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has piqued uncertainty among travelers, who are wondering whether they ought to cancel their spring and summer vacation trips, there are still plenty of places where Americans tourists can venture confidently.

Among them is the much-loved domestic tourism destination of Hawaii.

The latest news from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, dated March 11, 2020, states that there are only two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii, both of which involved prior out-of-state travel.

The first was presented on March 6 and had been a passenger aboard the Grand Princess cruise from February 11-21 to Mexico. The individual is being isolated at home in Honolulu and monitored daily by the Hawaii State Department of Health (HDOH).

The second case, presented on March 8, is an elderly patient who had visited Washington State and remains in isolation care in an Oahu hospital.

The HDOH is coordinating with federal officials to identify and contact anyone who may have had close contact with the individual while in transit. In both instances, there has been no evidence of community spread of the disease.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is working closely with HDOH, state and county government officials, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor the situation.

Cognizant of the islands’ long-held status as a major destination for mainland U.S. tourists and anticipating an influx of travelers headed for Hawaii as an alternative to their previously-planned vacation spots, the state is preparing itself and taking firm preventive action to address COVID-19.

On March 5, Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation authorizing the expenditure of state funds, enabling Hawaii to, “work quickly and efficiently to prevent, contain and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, and to provide disaster relief if necessary.”

Also hoping to get ahead of the problem, the HDOH announced on March 10 that it has also launched a system of surveillance screenings for early detection of any new cases of COVID-19 that may arise, aimed at identifying the source of the infection and preventing it from spreading to the community.

Modeled on the existing framework of the Flu Surveillance Program, The State Laboratories Division will randomly select 200 flu-negative samples for testing each week, to be provided by participating local healthcare providers.

Enhanced passenger screenings are also being conducted at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) by federal authorities (U.S. Customs and Border Protections and the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine) to identify individuals coming from affected countries who could require quarantine or public health supervision.

Equipped with a CDC Quarantine Station, HNL is one of eleven airports in the country that can accept U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents and their immediate families returning from affected international areas.

Everywhere in my office in Hawaii and DC. pic.twitter.com/oNwUcXKbvy

KITV Island News reported that coronavirus-related tensions have done nothing to dull the friendly enthusiasm of the Hawaiian people, with locals even inventing new ways to express the spirit of “Aloha.”

The traditional hug, kiss on the cheek or handshake doesn’t exactly fit with health experts’ advice to practice ‘social distancing,’ so the new etiquette for island greetings ranges from sharing an elbow-bump to what’s being called the “Wuhan shake”—attempting a high-five with your feet—or just offering a shaka sign instead of a handshake.

For more information, visit health.hawaii.gov/docd/advisories/novel-coronavirus-2019.

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