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Hawaii tightens travel restrictions for visitors

The state of Hawaii is tightening its COVID-19 travel guidelines amid spiking rates and an approaching Thanksgiving.

The state announced Friday that starting next Tuesday, trans-Pacific arrivals to Hawaii must prove a negative COVID-19 test to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine, the Hawaii Tribune Herald reports. If travelers do not get results before they enter the state, they must still quarantine regardless.

Prior to this announcement, travelers were allowed to be released from quarantine once they received a negative COVID test.

Gov. David Ige said during a press conference this decision was in response to the “dramatically increasing” number of positive cases in the continental United States.

“The health of our residents and visitors is our primary concern, especially as more people travel to Hawaii to celebrate the holidays,” Ige said.

Department of Health epidemiologist Joshua Quint warned that the state has a backlog of cases. Currently non-Hawaiian Pacific Islanders are at a “five-fold risk” of contracting the disease compared with Filipinos, “who are the only other ethnic group in Hawaii contracting the virus at disproportionately high rates,” Honolulu Civil Beat reports.

“The disparity is truly stark,” Quint said.

Quint also broke down the demographics of Pacific Islanders who contracted the virus, as being more female, more likely to be diabetic, more likely to be unemployed, as well as likely to have gotten in touch with three people while sick.

Furthermore, Star Advertiser cites that some Pacific Islanders suffer from medical conditions proven to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, work in high-risk service positions, live in multi-generational housing as well as have less access to healthcare.

In addition, the Honolulu Civil Beat reports the Chuukese community by far has had the most coronavirus infections, followed by Marshallese and Samoans.

This is a stark contrast from earlier this year, when a former director of the Hawaii Department of Health said he did not expect to see COVID differences among racial lines.

Marshallese physician Wilfred Alik said Marshall Islands consul general formed a task force in the spring.

“We need people in the community to be part of the solution,” Alik said. “We’re willing to help, the problem is we don’t have any resources.”

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