The state of Hawaii was the most conservative states in the country when it came to allowing people to return to the islands after they shut down due to COVID-19. Between outbreaks on the mainland and concentrated spikes on the islands, Hawaii announced and postponed its reopening date several times.
The governor announced that Hawaii was reopening flights to/from the mainland U.S. on October 15th, but even then there were several mayors of islands that were not sure about welcoming tourists and residents. With an approved negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel, passengers no longer had to quarantine for 14 days post-arrival. There were some bumps in the first few days of the islands reopening, but things have settled down for now.
One thing that hasn’t been reported much is that Hawaii is doing voluntary testing to see if their reopening plan is working and if it’s safe for residents and people returning to the islands. Hawaii News Now reported that the government is voluntarily testing some people 4 days after they’ve flown to the islands. They’ve committed to testing 10% of passengers.
Lt. Governor Josh Green says that out of 9,323 tests conducted so far, six passengers tested positive for COVID-19. That translates into 1 out 1,553 passengers.
If that rate holds, it means about 50 of the more than 82,000 travelers coming to the state under the pre-travel testing program since its launch Oct. 15 has been positive for coronavirus, even though they tested negative before departure. That number is understandable since people may have been exposed before testing but didn’t have a high enough viral load to test positive or they may have caught it after they were tested.
The most interesting thing about the article was that it said this positive rate is lower than the state had expected. That’s a 0.06% percent chance of a passenger on a plane to Hawaii having the coronavirus even if they’re tested negative within 72 hours before travel.
At this point, it’s all a numbers game for Hawaii. If they have 200,000 people a month visiting, that’s 120 people with coronavirus entering the state. I know that’s not zero, but if those people quarantine when they show symptoms and if everyone wears masks and social distances, there’s a reduced chance of spreading the disease throughout the general population.
After reading this article, the one question is what number of positive cases was the Hawaii government expecting and when would it have caused them to shut down their reopening plan? The world may never know.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary