Updated 11/1/21. When Governor Ige said it was safe for visitors to resume travel starting this week, he left off some critical details. We’ve delved into it more and one thing for sure, multiple announcements of changes are imminent. Here’s what that’s about and what visitors can expect the rest of the year.
First, Ige said last week that the goal now is to reduce restrictions before the end of the year. The way Ige rolls, read that to mean that likely any big changes will be announced by year end and go into effect starting the first week of the New Year.
That is, of course, a deviation from when Ige announced at 70% vaccinated, the state would eliminate all Safe Travels protocols. He later backtracked on that, saying that with the Delta Variant, that was no longer possible.
What will happen this week?
Hawaii is the only state that requires that arriving passengers either quarantine for 10 days or have an exemption for testing or vaccination.
Hawaii will come into alignment with the new federal rules on vaccination, similar to what is being implemented for international arrivals starting November 8. It doesn’t appear viable for Hawaii to keep the current rules in place which contradict federal rules. The governor has been waiting for the final rules from the federal government, and now that those have been issued, an announcement will follow.
Several people already asked if those vaccinated could need to be tested as well. Vaccination by itself is still acceptable and we don’t see that changing. That could only happen if mandated nationally by the federal government.
Safe Travels protocol will still be required including uploading documents and completing a health questionnaire within 24 hours of travel.
Airlines join in COVID rules enforcement. What about Hawaii?
Currently, for domestic travel to Hawaii, the airlines are not required to become involved. Airlines have chosen, however, to take part in the Pre-Clear process, wherein they can validate Hawaii Safe Travels exemptions and provide Pre-Clear bracelets, so that their passengers can avoid clearance issues once they land in Hawaii.
Airlines will start validating vaccination status of international passengers, both in terms of the date and the vaccine administered. Airlines will also collect and store contact tracing information for each international arrival. The airlines are subject to a $35,000 fine per failure to comply.
Mask mandates and other change from now to January 1.
We expect that if the number of cases of COVID continues to decline, Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate will be dropped. The trigger for this next extensive set of changes, according to the governor, is an average daily number of recent cases statewide of less than 100.
Restaurant capacity may be lifted entirely. Still stuck at 50%, this is unworkable at every level. We expect that limitation to be gone as soon as we approach the under 100 per day number.
International arrivals to Hawaii.
Hawaii will probably begin accepting vaccinations which take place outside of the United States (which is not currently permitted), as well as the vaccinations that aren’t on Hawaii’s approved list. Up to now, those visitors vaccinated outside the US must comply with the Safe Travels 72 hour testing protocol in order to avoid quarantine. But that is about to change.
To put it in perspective, the US has said that international arrivals must be fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO approved vaccine (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinopharm and Sinovac). Airlines will, for the first time, be responsible for enforcing these rules and collecting contact information.
International arrivals need to also present a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of departure. Those tests can be an antigen-type test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Currently, Hawaii only accepts NAAT.
Only US residents who are returning from abroad can enter the country unvaccinated, but they can do so only when they provide a negative test within 24 hours of departure.