Hundreds show up for mass testing on Lanai, residents continue to battle spread of virus

Hawaii (KHON2) — Hundreds of Lanai residents showed up to get tested on Saturday as the island continues to battle a surge of coronavirus cases.

LANAI CITY, Hawaii (KHON2) — Hundreds of Lanai residents showed up to get tested on Saturday as the island continues to battle a surge of coronavirus cases.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Maui Health officials confirmed that there are now 66 positive cases on Lanai. That number is expected to grow.

Lanai residents said that the initial shock is associated with the drastic spike of COVID-19 cases is subsiding. Lanai Cat Sanctuary Executive Director Keoni Vaughn said that residents are cautiously optimistic.

“We’re trying to remain positive, but also taking this very seriously,” he said.

Vaughn, along with hundreds of other Lanai residents, showed up for mass testing on Saturday.

Lanai Community Health Center Associate Medical Director Jared Medeiros said that the more testing they do will give them a better idea of how widespread the virus is on the island.

“There’s a big portion of the patients that are asymptomatic, which is another key part to note. That’s why we really need to get everybody tested on the island. Because we just don’t know,” said Medeiros. “We’re getting an influx of people just walking in wanting to get tested. And, of course, we’re not turning anybody away that wants to get tested.”

Since 15 students at Lanai High and Elementary tested positive, Medeiros said more kids are being tested.

“The school is now calling parents of kids that have been in the same classroom and they’ve been exposed. So that’s just starting to matriculate out in the community. There’s a lot of uneasiness with families.”

Lanai Union Church Pastor Steve Jerbi said that there are a number of positive cases in his congregation.

“A lot of the families are working class families, and they’re being impacted pretty significantly. I was talking to one gentleman yesterday, and you know, he said his COVID is, ‘No joke,’” Jerbi said.

Medeiros said most of the COVID-positive patients he’s seen are asymptomatic. But he added that the most common symptoms reported by patients are fatigue and body aches.

He has several high-risk patients with chronic illnesses that he wanted to fly off-island as a preemptive measure, but he said that request was denied.

“We were told that would be an option, and then they told me that, ‘No, we cannot take patients that are COVID-positive, who are not critically needing to get off the island.’ They don’t, they won’t transfer a patient, just in case,” Medeiros explained.

If Governor David Ige approves the mayor’s request, Lanai’s stay-at-home order will take effect on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 12:01 a.m.

“There’s kind of been a bit of a rush to the stores. A lot of people have been worried and kind of panic buying. So, that’s been going on here. Yesterday, it was like an hour wait to get into one of the stores,” Medeiros said.

Although the lockdown is not currently in effect, residents are already urged to shelter-in-place. Residents or visitors who wish to leave should make travel arrangements immediately.

Latest Stories on KHON2

HTA doubling up its efforts to educate travelers about Hawaii’s COVID-19 rules

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Since the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program began on Oct. 15, nearly 60,000 U.S. mainland travelers arrived in the …

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Since the State of Hawaii’s pre-travel testing program began on Oct. 15, nearly 60,000 U.S. mainland travelers arrived in the state.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Hawaii averaged about 8,000 daily arrivals in the first three days of reopening. In the last week, the state averaged about 5,000 trans-Pacific arrivals, which is well below the 29,000 daily arrivals in 2019.

Statewide, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said hotels are averaging about 20 to 25% occupancy, while several hotels remain closed.

HTA President and CEO John De Fries said that of the 217 hotels they surveyed, 145 opened or opened partially on October 15.

“I think by December 1, you can expect about another 50 to come online,” he said. “Some have chosen to spend more time preparing themselves before they fully remobilize.”

He said other hotels have decided to wait and see how the pre-travel testing program goes, whereas other hotels rely heavily on international travelers.

“The success of Hawaii moving forward is going to depend on our ability to keep this COVID curve flattened permanently,” De Fries said. “It’s the only way that we can take the steps over the next two to three years, to begin to open at scale.”

Throughout the first week, many residents reported that visitors were not wearing masks or adhering to local rules. Some said that they were met with snide remarks from visitors when they advised them of the rules.

But Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard said that the majority of people violating county rules were residents.

“None of us should tolerate any kind of belligerent or, or confrontational conduct from anyone,” De Fries said. “Regardless of whether you reside here or you visit here, the virus doesn’t know the difference. So my suggestion is, if you encounter people who are not wearing a mask, I would encourage people to confront them in a way that’s friendly and hospitable.”

He said education is picking up at the airport and more signage will be around all airports and at baggage claim.

“We all need to do our part, but at HTA we will continue to double up on our efforts, and you are going to start seeing more signage, more reminders and baggage claim,” he said.

He said Governor David Ige has also done a personal message that will be viewed at airports statewide.

“Until we can get this behavioral change moving, we will have to continue, you know, repetitively doing this,” De Fries said.

“Everybody in the world knows you’re supposed to wear a mask. Not everyone will. If they don’t. They’re going to get cited by the police,” explained Lieutenant Governor Josh Green.

Since Oct. 15, there have been about 7,500 visitors and residents who were required to quarantine. They were either awaiting test results or they opted out of the state’s pre-travel testing program.

De Fries said hotels are issuing one-time keys to visitors who are in quarantine.

“Once you exit your room, you’re unable to get back in, which will trigger the security, you’ll return to the front desk to get a new key. And at that point, the staff has been advised to call security or law enforcement,” he explained.

He said that hotels have sectioned off floors, or wings, to accommodate visitors who may contract COVID-19 while on vacation. He said if staying at the hotel exceeds their ability to afford it, they’ll be referred to the state to find interim quarantine housing.

Lt. Gov. Green said a small percent of travelers will come in positive with Covid-19, about 1 in 1,000.

“Of the first 6,100 tests that were done on Big Island, follow up test, two were positive out of over 6,000,” he said.

Hawaii residents face problems in pre-travel testing process

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pre-travel testing period kicks off on Oct. 15, but local residents returning home from a trip said they are running into …

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The pre-travel testing period kicks off on Oct. 15, but local residents returning home from a trip said they are running into problems getting a test done in the 72-hour window.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

The pre-travel testing program is the only way for visitors and residents to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine when traveling to Hawaii, but some are realizing the process is not as simple as it sounds.

Local Musician Shawn Pimental and his girlfriend Pono Fernandez are returning to Hawaii from San Francisco on Oct. 15th–the day the pre-travel testing program begins. They said getting a COVID-19 test through one of the state’s trusted partners has not been easy.

“Getting qualified to even make an appointment has been kind of tricky,” said Fernandez.

“Not even exaggerating, we’ve probably been through about 20 different sites and signed up for 20 different tests and been denied 18 out of those 20 times,” said Pimental.

According to Pimental, they encountered issues over medical insurance–some partners do not take HMSA and will not allow you to take a test if you are not covered. Another site denied them for not having any COVID-19 symptoms. There was also confusion regarding which address to put down on the form.

“Naturally, you want to put your home address, but you have to put your address where you’re staying here–the hotel address–which they don’t say that. If you put your Hawaii address, then you’re denied, you’re kicked out of the system,” Pimental explained.

The other problem–finding an available appointment.

“We didn’t think it was going to be hard. We thought, okay, pretty easy to find the test at Walgreens or CVS here. But everything’s just been full. We tried every Walgreens and CVS and probably like 100 miles from here. All the appointments are full up until almost the end of the month,” said Pimental.

Hawaiian Airlines is listed as a pre-testing partner, but Pimental said he could not find any information about the drive-thru tests they are supposed to be offering.

“There’s no information on their website. It says, ‘check back soon.’”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hawaiian Airlines said:

“As an official state of Hawai’i trusted testing partner, we plan to open our Worksite Labs drive-thru testing site near LAX on October 16 and SFO later next week. Details will be available soon on our website and at

In the meantime, guests flying from any of our U.S. mainland gateways, can take the pre-travel COVID-19 test from the comfort of their home through our partnership with Vault Health to qualify to be exempt from the state of Hawai’i quarantine.”

Pimental’s advice to other travelers–plan ahead and be patient.

“We had been doing a lot of research in the week leading up to our departure. And yet, we’re still 24-48 hours ahead of our flight and scrambling,” said Fernandez.

“Be prepared. Your plan might not work. We’re not even on our plan A or B. We’re like on plan like L and M and N already,” said Pimental.

They booked an appointment on Oct. 14, which is 24-hours before their flight, at a Walgreens in Sacramento–200 miles from their hotel.

Pimental said they already know they will have to quarantine when they arrive home in Hawaii until their results come in.

Officials announced more trusted pre-testing partners on Oct. 12. Click here to see the full list.

Latest Stories on KHON2

Positivity rate remains flat as travel gets ready to open

HONOLULU (KHON2) — With two days until the state’s pre-travel test program begins, Hawaii continues to flatten the COVID-19 curve. [Hawaii news …

HONOLULU (KHON2) — With two days until the state’s pre-travel test program begins, Hawaii continues to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

The positivity rate was 2.3 percent on Sunday.

What are the new developments as tourists get ready to arrive?

Lt. Gov. Josh Green joined Wake Up 2day with the latest on the numbers and partnerships for travel. He also answered viewer questions.

Latest Stories on KHON2

Gov. says mayors can ‘opt out’ of pre-travel testing program

Keck Observatory astronomer wins Nobel Prize. Oct 6, 2020. KAMUELA, Hawaii (KHON2) — A local astronomer is now a winner of the prestigious Nobel …

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state’s pre-travel testing program starts in 9 days, but KHON2 recently learned from the Governor’s Office that county mayors can decide to “opt out” of the program. Just a day after the governor denied Kauai’s request for a post-arrival test, there is some uncertainty over what happens next for the neighbor islands.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami says an option to opt out of the state’s pre-travel test program is a new development, but says the county cannot commit to plans it does not fully understand and wants more details on what it would mean to “opt out.”

Here is Mayor Kawakami’s full statement regarding his decision on opting out of the program:

“We have not yet made a determination. Decisions must be deliberate and we can’t commit to plans we don’t fully understand. Our goal from the beginning has been to supplement the Governor and Lt. Governor’s statewide travel plan. The option to opt out is a recent development. As we understand it, our proposal was denied in part because the state aimed for consistency across the board, so visitors would not be confused. How does the option to opt out achieve that goal? If each county were to opt out, where does that leave the statewide travel plan? We need more details on what an “opt out” means for the counties, and whether that provides the option for us to implement a single-test post-arrival program.

“If we were to remain in the program, the Lt. Governor has committed to implementing enhanced testing post-arrival, such as a surveillance testing program, and we look forward to hearing details on how that will be implemented on October 15.

“Our goal is not to extend a mandatory 14-day quarantine in perpetuity. Our goal is to keep our community safe while we take a phased, responsible approach to reopening. We believed we could do that by offering an enhanced second-test program.”

In a news release, Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim said he and the other mayors discussed on Oct. 6 a two-test policy for transpacific travel, instead of the policy that goes into effect on October 15. He goes on to say they need time to work out the logistics and a decision would be made this week.

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce says the coast is very dependent on tourism and businesses have been preparing for visitors to come quarantine-free starting mid-October.

“They have contacted their suppliers, brought back their employees for training, getting everything ready to open,” said Wendy Laros, President of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. “You know, it’s a very big deal. And so we were all counting on October 15th to actually be that date.”

While there are those who feel safer with a post-travel test in place, Laros says a few businesses are hanging in there for the upcoming reopening.

“If they took their resources and use them to launch their reopenings based on this October 15th date, and then we’re told that no, you’ve got to shut down again, that’s what will be devastating,” said Laros.

A spokesperson from Honolulu Mayor Caldwell’s Office says Oahu plans to participate in the pre-travel testing program, though testing twice would be preferred. The Maui Mayor’s Office says talks with the Governor’s Office are ongoing. The state says more information on pre-travel is expected to be available hopefully on Oct 7.

Latest Stories on KHON2