Question: Can a test taken in Honolulu before departure be used to return to Honolulu without quarantine if the entire trip falls within the 72-hour window?
Answer: No. “Results from a test taken in Hawaii are not acceptable to bypass quarantine requirements upon return from travel on the mainland,” said Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.
Kokua Line gets this question a lot, from people who need to make weekend trips to the mainland; the destinations vary but the question is the same. We’ve heard from Hawaii residents flying to Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle and Portland, Ore. — all for Friday- to-Sunday trips they describe as essential. Among the examples: to compete in an athletic showcase likely to lead to college admission or a scholarship; to finalize a job or housing in a city to which they’re relocating after losing work here; or to visit a college they’re considering attending in the fall, rather than choosing from institutions seen only online.
The volume has increased since the state changed its Safe Travels program to require that trans-Pacific travelers have a negative COVID-19 test result in hand before boarding their Hawaii- bound flight, in order to avoid the 14-day quarantine. The change took effect Nov. 24. Before that a traveler tested as required before flying to Hawaii could exit quarantine once their negative test result arrived, even if the result was a little late. (Note: Kauai has opted out of the pre-travel testing regimen and requires quarantine for all.)
The Safe Travels program accepts COVID-19 test results only from the state’s Trusted Testing and Travel Partners, some of which are warning prospective Hawaii travelers that they can no longer guarantee results in time for passengers to avoid quarantine.
Travelers should read up on testing requirements and turnaround times for specific providers well before their travel dates. For more information, see hawaiicovid19.com/travel.
For readers planning essential weekend trips to the mainland, here’s a suggestion we’ve received from other readers who have pulled this off: Before leaving Hawaii, make an appointment online with an approved provider in your destination city, to occur the day you arrive. Choose a provider that guarantees rapid results on an acceptable test (Walgreens’ Rapid Diagnostic Test, with results in less than 24 hours, is often mentioned). Get your test result and upload it to the Safe Travels app before heading home to Hawaii. Keep a hard copy of the result, in case of technical difficulties with the Safe Travels app.
Other readers suggested asking your airline about the quickest, most convenient in-person testing options, close to or at your destination airport. Most airlines provide information about COVID-19 testing for their customers on their websites.
Q: I looked at the Health Department website, but I couldn’t find the list of Trusted Testing and Travel Partners. Could you please be more specific?
A: Find the list at hawaii covid19.com/travel-partners. However, don’t let scanning the list be the end of your research. Click through to a specific provider’s website to make sure it still meets your needs. The Safe Travel program’s changing rules have disrupted operations for some. For example, CVS now advises Hawaii travelers to make other testing plans, saying that “we cannot guarantee a specific turnaround time on the lab tests accepted by Hawaii.” Vault Health, meanwhile, says travelers flying to Hawaii on Tuesdays and Wednesdays shouldn’t use its at-home test because timely results are not guaranteed. Those are just two examples.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email [email protected]