Hawaii Gov. David Ige reappeared yesterday prior to his departure for Scotland to attend the UN COP26 Climate Change convention. He unveiled a list of changes that will have a significant impact both on mainland domestic and international travelers starting next week. Some surprise announcements will also necessarily lead to more changes that will be forthcoming this week. It was as messy and confusing as we’d expected it to be, and it appears to have been done without the buy-in from the county mayors. So read on and see what we mean.
Where was Lieutenant Governor Josh Green?
As we said yesterday, Green and Ige are like oil and water. Josh Green was apparently not invited to take part in yesterday’s announcement. Instead, lesser-known Safe Travels administrator Sherilyn Kajiwara and Hawaii Dept. of Defense head Major General Kenneth Hara joined the governor. Green’s frequent updates on Facebook did not even mention the important announcement from the governor.
Mainland travelers’ rule changes.
What changed and what else might occur this week?
The governor is lifting all restaurant, bar, and gym capacity restrictions. But, that is only in those counties that require vaccination or recent (48-hour) COVID tests as entrance requirements to those facilities. That caught both Kauai and the Big Island by surprise, and they are scrambling at this moment.
As of today, only Honolulu and Maui have implemented such vaccination/testing requirements. Kauai and the Big Island will need to remain at 50% capacity until and unless they implement the same requirements as Maui and Honolulu.
In addition, starting next week, “outdoor” dining, bars, and other establishments will no longer require either a mask mandate or social distancing. That measure is statewide and is unrelated to potential changes coming to Kauai and the Big Island. Until this goes into effect, patrons have been required to remain seated with their group, maintain 6-feet of physical distance between groups, and wear masks except when eating or drinking.
Big Island says not so fast.
Hawaii Island’s mayor said there will be no changes on that island starting next week. He did not rule out coming into alignment with Maui and Honolulu but indicated merely that it won’t be happening on November 12.
Kauai is caught off-guard by the governor’s announcement.
Kauai had not implemented vaccination or testing requirements for entry to restaurants and other facilities. Following yesterday’s announcement by the governor, Mayor Kawakami said, “unfortunately, we did not have any prior knowledge or discussions with the Governor or his team about this new Executive Order until today. We agree that it’s time for our businesses to operate at larger capacity if they choose, but it should not require another county policy or program.”
So what is going to happen on Kauai? While not entirely clear, it appears that the Garden Island will soon come into alignment with Maui and Oahu on the testing or vaccination requirements in order to move from 50% to 100% capacity.
The mayor said that the new order “essentially forces the County to implement such a policy in order to allow our local businesses to operate above 50%. We’re now in a position where we must make a quick decision.”
Yesterday’s changes will go into effect on November 12.
Ige said, “vaccination is the most widespread and important mitigation measure during this pandemic.”
Effective November 8, Hawai is to accept any vaccination that is FDA or WHO authorized.
International travel rules change effective November 8.
Testing for all passengers among other rules.
Starting November 8, in conjunction with federal government rule changes, international arrival requirements to Hawaii will be different. For non-US citizens traveling “directly” to Hawaii from another country, both proof of vaccination and a negative NAAT/Antigen COVID test within three days of boarding a flight to the US will be required.
For US citizens flying “directly” to Hawaii from abroad, fully vaccinated passengers must also provide a NAT/Antigent COVID test “taken within 72 hours” of the US-bound flight. Those US citizens not fully vaccinated are required to show proof of the same negative test “taken within 24 hours” of boarding the US-bound flight.
Hawaii Trusted Travel Partners requirement is out for international.
For international arrivals, tests must be either NAAT or Antigen but no longer need to be from a Trusted Travel Partner.
International passengers who stop en route to Hawaii will, however, then be considered domestic passengers, and will need to comply with Safe Travels rules including the Trusted Travel Partner only tests, or vaccination from within the US. That means those passengers will need to have two tests before arriving in Hawaii.
Also starting November 8, all airlines flying to the US will be required to collect and maintain international passenger contact tracing information.