It seems like news moves at hyperspeed these days, and news about Hawaii reopening is no different. Yesterday we learned that another island destination, The Bahamas, has reversed direction suddenly. What could that mean for Hawaii’s plans to reopen, still tentatively set for September 1? At a news conference yesterday, Governor Ige indicated he may delay reopening due to a spike in cases here in Hawaii. And perhaps for other reasons indicated below.
The Bahamas, whose population is about 1/4 the size of Hawaii, now has 679 cases.
Their Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said yesterday the country will be in a complete lockdown for the next two weeks, as a result of their resources being “Increasingly stretched due to a dramatic rise in infections and hospitalizations. “Our ICU beds are at capacity and non-critical care beds are approaching capacity… We can and we will rebuild our economy and our society. But what we cannot do is bring people’s life back. We can rebuild, but we cannot recreate new life.”
As you’ll recall, The Bahamas reopened on July 1 to international travelers, after which their cases exploded due to increased gatherings and residents returning from hotspots like Florida. The country last month banned visitors from the United States due to an increase in cases. The Bahamas previously had lockdown periods between March and June.
Under the latest policy there, anyone traveling to The Bahamas must quarantine at their own expense, in a government facility for 14 days, and then have a negative COVID-19 test before they can leave. Interesting situation, and one that some had proposed here in Hawaii.
The new lockdown takes effect later today. Their measures include limiting funerals to five, and the only businesses open are food, water, take-out pharmacies, banks, and gas stations, which will be open only limited hours three days a week.
The Bahamas had a sort of travel bubble.
Prior to this lockdown, travel exemptions were in effect for visitors from the United Kingdom, European Union, and Canada who have tested negative. So the idea of a Hawaii travel bubble or any travel bubble may not be feasible after all. Remember too that Hawaii had proposed that Australia be part of a bubble, in addition to Japan and New Zealand, which was before the recent spike in cases in Victoria.
Hawaii reopening still “tentatively” scheduled for September 1.
Travel update pending. We still expect to learn in the next two weeks if the state will reopen to tourism starting September 1, without a 14-day quarantine for those who pre-test. That date was last pushed back from August 1. There are multiple factors that now make that plan seem highly unlikely:
○ A reliable and timely pre-travel testing program the state had promised has never happened.
○ There is a lack of local testing ability here in Hawaii for the foreseeable future.
○ The state has no plans for on-arrival visitor testing.
○ There is a clear inability to track visitors/contacts. Even now with very limited flights and visitors, the state is simply unable to keep track of visitors who skirt the openly skirt the quarantine requirements and then write about it in social media.
The plan, however, remains thus far unchanged. It is set to allow travelers to forego quarantine if they test negative 72 hours before leaving for Hawaii. Governor Ige has said repeatedly, however, the state is simply not ready. “This decision comes after much, much discussion… This was not an easy decision to make. It really was a choice between two difficult options.”
Hawaii faces an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions with its largest industry and economy-driver veritably closed down.
Visitors and locals skirting regulations continues.
It is still widely reported that visitors have found convenient loopholes to Hawaii’s current quarantine. That includes buying separate interisland tickets after which they are no longer considered to be in quarantine. Former news reporter Angela Keen said, “Once you’re on a neighbor island flight, you’re not a tourist anymore, you’re a resident, and you’re treated as a resident, they’re not checking if you’ve quarantined.” Some visitors have reportedly posted this behavior on social media following their “quarantine” vacations.”
Limiting group size, wearing masks, physical distancing, and other desired behaviors are not being adhered to by locals. There were 207 new cases reported in Hawaii just yesterday, with the majority being on Oahu.
Puerto Rico also halts reopening plans.
Puerto Rico started welcoming tourists again on July 15, but is now recommending “essential travel” only. That plan is set to be in effect indefinitely. Their official visitor website says, “Puerto Rico is encouraging only essential travel at this time and has postponed its official inbound tourism reopening to safeguard visitors and residents.” To date, the island has had over 12,000 C0VID cases and 180 deaths.
Also, at this time their clubs, attractions, gyms, theaters, bars, etc. will remain closed, while other businesses remain open and operating at 50% of normal capacity. Beaches are open on a limited basis for individual sports and exercise, a nighttime curfew remains in effect, and masks are mandatory in public.