Amidst a growing number of both the Omicron and Delta variants both on the mainland and here in Hawaii, for now, at least, Hawaii travel continues to excel in attracting visitors. But there could be a mess brewing with Safe Travels which is one of our topics today.
In spite of the 12 cases of Omicron already detected in Hawaii, and a growing number anticipated, Hawaii’s airlines are approaching the holidays with much to feel good about. And if we hadn’t just learned of Omicron, it would be that much busier. Hawaii is set to track at or above 2019 domestic travel levels going forward, barring anything unforeseen.
All of us, including the Hawaii travel industry, are trying to learn to cope with Covid and an unknown number of future variants that may occur before it hopefully goes away quietly. And yet, as we have seen in the past couple of weeks, travel restrictions, no matter how quickly they are implemented nor how severe they are, do not serve to stop the spread of new variants.
Will Hawaii update Safe Travels rules as cases grow and vaccine effectiveness wanes?
The protection offered by Covid vaccines is waning over time. This now further complicates the current Hawaii Safe Travels rules. Someone fully vaccinated two months ago is now said to have significantly better protection against Covid than someone vaccinated six or eight months ago, let alone the superior protection we are told is offered to those who have had recent Covid boosters. Then too there is a case for natural immunity, with its protection which is also said to wane over time.
Therefore the question remains as to whether Hawaii might seek to update the Safe Travels rules with regard to the fast-changing information becoming available. And, can Hawaii move on its own in that regard, without waiting for the federal government to update its definition of fully vaccinated or recovered?
Testing for domestic flights remains on hold nationally.
Last week new Covid testing requirements were implemented for all international flights to the United States. Most of the traveling public would like to see some mandate for testing on domestic flights, but lawmakers seem disinclined. And how that would even work, remains a mystery. Read on for an on-airport testing idea.
Why this could be a mess brewing.
Vaccination and recovery verification standards may need to be updated soon. Are Hawaii airport personnel equipped to deal with these matters if standards become more complex, and how then might this be managed? Airlines flying to Hawaii are already providing Pre-Clear exemption wristbands for vacation-bound visitors. But how much more can they take on without causing consternation, delays, and conflicts.
Is the current 3-day “trusted partner” testing effective and will that evolve?
The key to testing is obviously to find those who are actively infected. However, based on the fact that the new federal requirements now require testing within 1-day (for all international arrivals), does Hawaii’s current 3-day rule even make sense. Furthermore, if Hawaii moves away from its strict (“trusted partner”) testing requirements and opts for a shorter interval between testing and flying, what tests would be approved? The variety of available tests results in differing levels of specificity and sensitivity, which could lead to more uncertainty when interpreting and accepting test results.
On-site airport testing prior to boarding?
Some have suggested recently that adding on-site airport testing, perhaps following the TSA security screening process, could make the most sense both for Hawaii and nationally.
Hawaii Safe Travels (in whatever form) is here to stay for a long time.
To effectively control current and future outbreaks, the Hawaii Safe Travels program will stay in effect. Remaining hawk-eyed is currently the best way to mitigate Covid. Relaxing the Safe Travels rules appears to be off the table for Hawaii.
That is probably true no matter what news there is tomorrow, whether it is good or bad. One thing we’ve learned is that the next news cycle may bring more or less trouble.
Please let us know your thoughts!