Lanai Locks Down As Hawaii Welcomes Tourists With Negative COVID-19 Tests

view of a beach in Lanai, Hawaii

Hawaii may be welcoming visitors who can prove they’ve tested negative for COVID-19, but Lanai — the state’s smallest publicly accessible and most lightly inhabited island — isn’t greeting anyone. 

Lanai instituted a two-week stay-at-home order on Oct. 27 as a new cluster of coronavirus cases emerged. The order prohibits all nonessential travel to and from Lanai, which has just two grocery stores, limited medical facilities, and is 98% owned by billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison. 

Ellison's properties on the 140-square-mile island include the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. 

Lanai confirmed four COVID-19 cases on Oct. 20. Within a week, local health officials confirmed 87 cases. 

“People are just kind of, they’re not panicking. They’re worried, they’re concerned, it is scary. But there’s no need for panic,” Lanai resident Kathy Carroll told Hawaii TV station KHON2.

The island has just one major town of about 3,000 — Lanai City. 

Medical personnel in Lanai City, which was once entirely a pineapple plantation, are expecting to confirm more COVID-19 cases in the coming days. 

“We have a lot of tests from Monday that are still pending. I have a high suspicion they’re positive because they’re from individuals in the same household as positive patients,” Jared Medeiros, the associate medical director at Lanai Community Health Center, told KHON2. 

Medeiros told the station he’s already begun sending some COVID-19 patients to Maui, which is better equipped to treat them. 

For the past several months, Hawaii had been requiring anyone arriving in the state to quarantine for two weeks. Earlier this month, it began allowing visitors with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of departure to skip quarantine. 

So far, Hawaii has reported nearly 15,000 COVID-19 cases and just over 200 deaths. 

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets, and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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