By CALEB JONES The Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — Coronavirus weary residents and struggling business owners in Hawaii will be watching closely as tourists begin to return to the islands on Thursday without being required to self-quarantine upon arrival.
A new pre-travel testing program will allow visitors who test negative for COVID-19 to come to Hawaii and avoid the two weeks of mandatory quarantine — a measure that’s been in place for all arriving passengers for most of the year.
The state-run testing program is an effort to stem the devastating downturn the pandemic has had on Hawaii’s tourism-based economy.
However, gaps in the pre-travel testing program coupled with increasing cases of COVID-19 across the U.S. and the world have raised questions about whether Hawaii is ready to safely welcome back vacationers.
Officials touted the mandatory quarantine rule as an integral part of Hawaii’s early success in keeping the coronavirus at bay.
But when local restrictions were eased before summertime holidays, community spread of the disease spiked to alarming levels, forcing a second round of stay-at-home orders for residents and closures for non-essential…