Hawai´i Inter-Island Travel Exception On The Way For Vaccinated Residents
Governor David Ige on Tuesday announced that a travel exception is coming soon for fully-vaccinated individuals who received their shot(s) in Hawai´i.
The program will go into effect on May 11, 2021, effectively ending all other coronavirus-related travel restrictions between the islands of Hawai´i, Kaua´i and Maui for those who qualify.
Lt. Governor Josh Green dubbed the announcement “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic’s stranglehold on Hawai´i.
“People really want to travel, we know that.” Green said. “(This) is a travel exception. It is a part of the Safe Travels Program. It is not meant to stop anyone from having their civil rights. It is just (another) way to be safe.”
Major General Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawai´i Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA), explained that the program guarantees participants will be allowed to avoid the state’s mandatory 10-quarantine period absent the requirements of taking a pre-travel test 72 hours before departure.
Such travelers will also be exempt from secondary testing requirements upon arrival at their destinations, like the ones individuals arriving on the Big Island have been subject to for the last several months.
“The timing is right,” said Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth. “(Between) 70-80% of people coming into Hawai´i Island have been vaccinated already. This is really the time to do this.”
WHO QUALIFIES FOR HAWAI´I’S COVID-19 VACCINATION TRAVEL EXCEPTION?
To be eligible for the travel exception, an individual must be fully vaccinated. That is defined as having received both of the Pfizer or Moderna shots, or the singular Johnson & Johnson shot, plus a two-week waiting period for immunity to ramp up.
The inoculations MUST have been administered in the state of Hawai´i for a vaccinated individual to be eligible. The reason, the governor explained, is that the state has a database it can readily access for those people vaccinated within its borders. Though, he added that because the state prioritized vaccine registration and administration over tracking, the database is currently incomplete, as inoculation centers upload the data at their own pace.
Everyone 16 years and older in Hawai´i, and across the rest of the United States, is now eligible to register for vaccination. Children under the age of 5 are not subject to pre-travel testing requirements. However, those between the ages of 5 and 15 who are required to take pre-travel tests but are not old enough yet to be vaccinated will need to follow the established guidelines in the state’s Safe Travels Program to avoid quarantine. They will also be subject to secondary testing at their destination, should that destination require it.
The governor noted that Hawai´i, in conjunction with multiple business partners, is developing a working database and the accompanying technology to verify vaccinations performed both out-of-state and out-of-country. There has been no specific timetable announced, though General Hara said Tuesday the goal is to take those pilot programs live at some point during the summer.
HOW HAWAI´I’S COVID-19 VACCINATION TRAVEL EXCEPTION WORKS
Those who wish to participate must create an account with the Safe Travels Hawai´i digital platform, complete an online form, then upload a PDF or photo copy of their vaccination card. The physical card must also be on your person while traveling.
An individual who has lost his or her card is advised to contact the location at which the inoculations were received to request a new one. People may also sign in to the CDC’s VAMS system to print off their certificate using their initial login information.
“If you can’t find your card, you will be able to get an extra card,” Green assured.
He went on to warn people about falsifying the vaccination cards in any way, noting that they qualify as federal documents and altering one carries “a big fine, a big penalty.”
General Hara said the digital system will not share personal health information beyond what is on the vaccine card itself, including a name, date-of-birth, the vaccine type received, etc.
The online program is expected to go live on Friday, May 7 for flights beginning May 11, as to allow time to upload the relevant information. Hara said that initially, screeners will validate the cards at airports. The plan is that after traveling once, each individual will be in the system, meaning the process will be simplified during subsequent excursions as fewer tasks will be required before travel.
Someone traveling before being fully vaccinated will not be eligible for the travel exception, even if they have received partial inoculation. Those who are fully vaccinated will not be eligible until the 15th day following their final shot. Those who can not or choose not to be vaccinated may still travel and avoid quarantine by following the Safe Travels Program guidelines.
HAWAI´I TRAVEL HISTORY IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
The Lieutenant Governor on Tuesday said that just shy of 2.65 million people have arrived to the Hawaiian Islands since the Safe Travels Program was launched on Oct. 15, 2020. Approximately 2 million were guests, while the remainder were returning residents, people relocating to the state or those visiting family.
Even despite the lack of usual travel traffic, Green noted that island residents have nevertheless “come a long way together through this pandemic.”
To date, a total of 1,076,512 vaccine doses have been administered statewide. Green said that 35% of adults in Hawai´i have received at least one dose. As more vaccine is delivered, COVID-19 case counts will come down. Though, he added everyone should still wear masks for the time being.
Green also acknowledged that there will be hiccups as the interisland travel exception program gets off the ground, a sentiment echoed by Maui Mayor Michael Victorino, who asked the public to remain patient.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll get it down fairly quickly.”