The state of Hawaii is looking at possible ways of adding new layers of precaution, including pre-travel testing of all travelers and requiring vaccination for a myriad of activities, including restaurants. There are big issues to address, including what will be considered legal, especially given today’s formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The state is closely watching the current surge in Covid and is preparing to take action as indicated. That came as yesterday’s caseload went to a new all-time high of nearly 900 cases in one day. Today was somewhat better, with 571 cases reported.
This is all about to shake out. In the meanwhile, we have more insights to share.
Why Hawaii is cautious about new travel restrictions at this time.
While Governor Ige has said little, Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial hopeful Lieutenant Governor Green expressed concern yesterday about whether travel should be more restrictive. Many issues are playing into that caution, including:
1. Whether some further restrictions will be considered legal or could interfere with interstate commerce.
2. How to implement the next changes without damaging the all-important Hawaii travel industry at this still-precarious time.
3. Whether the current Hawaii travel boom will be self-limiting in any event. That could occur for multiple reasons, both as the slower fall season approaches and if travelers choose to avoid travel while the Delta Variant is still surging.
4. Whether the latest Covid variant could be peaking soon, at least in some areas, as was just indicated by former FDA head Scott Gottlieb. If that’s the case, then implementation of any new travel rules could be too late.
Green on reinstating pre-travel testing.
The lieutenant governor acknowledged that Hawaii’s pre-travel testing has been a safe and effective way to resume travel.
Green said Sunday, however, “I was recently asked why we can’t easily reinstate the safe travels pre-test requirements that my team developed last year. This is the reason: The CDC has taken the position that vaccinated travel is the safe approach and what they recommend, therefore the attorney general cannot defend the policy of mandating testing pre-arrival any longer. The best thing we can all do now is get vaccinated, avoid large gatherings and wear masks when indoors. Be concluded, “This week will be pivotal to the crisis.”
The state Attorney General’s office recently indicated it believes that legality doesn’t impact any of Hawaii’s Covid response methods.
Hawaii is waiting for the governor to respond officially one way or the other to last week’s Big Island request to implement pre-travel testing once again. If approved, that would apply to all travelers, vaccinated or not.
The state says it will give adequate notice to travelers.
Green said that Hawaii-bound vacationers could expect two weeks’ advance notice of any upcoming changes.
Regarding pre-travel testing returning, he said it “may be challenged legally because we are the only ones to have successfully done it, and vaccination status is the standard the CDC has been promoting.” That is the first time we are aware that he has mentioned the potential legal complications of returning to the testing protocol.
Vaccination-based admission is still in the works.
Green continues to assert that that is the direction the state is looking to go. Like New York, proof of vaccination may be required for restaurants and many other places. See Hawaii Vaccination Passports Coming Next To Restaurants. As regular Deb just commented, “If the state indeed requires vaccinations to eat in a restaurant or engage in an excursion, then that pretty much eliminates children from coming to the island. Nice way to treat the keikis.”
Domestic travel is still tracking ahead of 2019.
Since vaccination became accepted in place of testing in June, Hawaii travel has soared. Unfortunately, so has the cases of Covid. The state believes that those are largely unrelated to visitors and are likely from community spread associated with residents. Hawaii’s health department maintains that less than 2% of cases are related to visitors.