For the first time in nearly seven months, Hawaii is reopening to tourists.
About 8,000 people arrived in the state Friday, on the first day of a new program that allows tourists to travel to the Hawaiian Islands without having to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine, according to the Associated Press. However, travelers must produce a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their flight in order to avoid the quarantine.
There is also an option to not get tested and simply quarantine for the full two weeks, as visitors have done since late March. All travelers headed to Hawaii must create a profile on Safe Travels to help the state track and enforce quarantines for visitors who opt out of pre-travel testing.
The pre-travel program is being touted as a way to jumpstart the tourism industry, which has suffered massively since the onset of the pandemic. Of Hawaii’s roughly 4,000 restaurants, bakeries, and caterers, 100 have shuttered permanently and more than 50 percent predict they will close in the coming months, state officials told the AP.
"It’s critically important for the economy of our state that we restart tourism, which is really the economic engine of our state," Avi Mannis, the SVP of marketing for Hawaiian Airlines, said on Good Morning America. "And we’ve got to do it safely in a way that keeps our community safe, that keeps our guests and our industry workers safe."
Hawaii responded swiftly to the coronavirus pandemic, putting the mandatory quarantine in place on March 26. The state was able to avoid the early case spikes that plagued much of the rest of the country, with Gov. David Ige announcing in May that Hawaii had "flattened the curve."
In August and early September, however, cases began to increase, according to data from The New York Times. Many local politicians and business owners have criticized the new travel program, claiming that it will not do enough to protect the islands from a COVID-19 outbreak in the wake of rising case numbers.
"We had hoped for 'sandwich' testing, where visitors would be tested before departure and after arrival in Hawaii in order to keep Hawaii a citadel safe from COVID," Peter Merriman, a chef and restaurant owner, told CNN. "But it turns out we don't have enough testing capacity so just a single pre-travel test is required."
He added, "The people who live in Hawaii have embraced mask-wearing and the spirit of aloha inherently includes concern for one another's well-being. We hope visitors to Hawaii will adopt that same approach in order to keep everyone safe."
Many of the islands have implemented additional safety measures, with the Big Island requiring secondary rapid testing upon arrival for visitors to avoid quarantine. Oahu officials said they wanted to do something similar, but do not yet have the testing capacity, according to the AP. In Maui and Kauai, secondary testing is voluntary.
"This second test upon arrival to Hawaii island will provide an extra layer of protection for our community," Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said in a statement Monday. "Virtually, all medical and coronavirus experts agree for the necessity of more than one test."
This story originally appeared on People .
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