Yup. That’s right. Hawaii Safe Travels is staying until Spring 2022, at minimum. Of course, this means that vaccine requirements or pre-travel testing will remain in place for anyone entering Hawaii that wants to avoid our 10-day mandatory quarantine. And, yes, the requirement continues to apply to both visitors and residents alike.
Today, Hawaii is one of the most highly vaccinated states in the Union. At the moment, just over 72.2% of our total population has completed their COVID-19 vaccination. That’s two percent above the original requirement for doing away with most of our pandemic safety measures, including the Safe Travels systems. But, the Delta-fueled surge earlier this year invalidated that entire plan. In fact, what we thought we knew about herd immunity is no longer valid too. Data coming out of the EU, which is experiencing yet another surge, proves that the 70% threshold doesn’t work. Scientists now think we need to aim to 90% to 95%, thanks to how easily Delta spreads. Thus, it’s no surprise to see Hawaii Safe Travels staying with us longer.
Hawaii Safe Travels is Staying Until Spring 2022
On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Josh Green told Hawaii News Now that he believes Governor Ige will remain reluctant about doing away with the program until at least Spring 2022. In his opinion, the rest of the world needs to see a general decline in cases before we see any loosening of our own travel restrictions. He goes on to state that “[t]he reason for the Safe Travels Program and keeping that in place to a degree is because there has been an outbreak in Austria and Germany and in some parts of the United States.”
While that’s true, Safe Travels will only help with domestic visitors and EU visitors connecting through the continental U.S. International visitors that connect via Asia or Canada will not be subject to Safe Travels, though the State Department’s rules should be sufficient for protecting us.
Interestingly, he is neither endorsing nor deriding the program, as has often been the case recently. But, he is making sure the public knows that it’s Governor Ige and not himself responsible for the program’s continuation. It’s an unusual move for Green, in my opinion, since his tactic lately has been to strongly oppose anything Ige says. But, perhaps his political advisors have told him to cut it out if he wishes to become governor in 2024?
At any rate, Hawaii News Now reports that the local business community has mixed reactions regarding the statement. Some think we should do away with the program altogether, while others think it’s continuing to work well for the state. Residents interviewed by the news outlet were equally divided. The few visitors interviewed, however, weren’t bothered by the program. Visitors from Wisconsin and California both said the program wouldn’t discourage them from returning and wasn’t an impediment during their current trip.
I personally do not view Hawaii Safe Travels staying a bit longer as a bad thing. The program has certainly helped to minimize the pandemic’s impact on our state. And, remember, Hawaii is the most isolated landmass on the planet. If our support systems become overwhelmed – which, they nearly did earlier this year – it would be very difficult for us to get help. Plus, the program only serves as a deterrent to those that deny the existence of the virus or are opposed to any of the safety measures. So, really, there’s no harm in keeping it around. In fact, I’d say the program is doing its job in more ways than one.
It’s true that Hawaii Safe Travels is a bit convoluted in practice. But, it’s not an overly difficult program to understand either. I do wish the state would improve the user experience a bit. However, I’m not going to hold my breath.