Ige: Boosters won’t be added to Safe Travels Hawaiʻi; Indoor mask mandate continues
The Safe Travels Hawai‘i program will remain unchanged at this time, and booster shots will not be required for “up-to-date” vaccination status for individuals traveling to Hawai‘i, Gov. David Ige announced today.
“In making this decision, we considered declining COVID-19 case counts in Hawai‘i, the continental US and Europe. Hospitalizations have also dropped. In addition, we looked at Hawaiʻi’s robust vaccination rates and the continued push by businesses and organizations to get their employees vaccinated and boosted for the safety of their families and the community,” said Gov. Ige in a press release. “At this time, we will also maintain the indoor mask mandate and other rules that have helped us manage this pandemic while reopening the economy.”
“While booster shots are not required for the Safe Travels program right now, they continue to be very effective in preventing severe illness from COVID-19,” said Dr. Libby Char, director, Department of Health. “New research shows a third shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is 90-94% effective in keeping people out of the hospital. Omicron case counts are dropping but we don’t know if or when we may see another surge in cases of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated and boosted now will help to prevent you from becoming seriously ill. The Department of Health recommends you get vaccinated and get boosted today,” she said.
Incident Commander for COVID-19 Response Gen. Kenneth S. Hara said the decision not to include booster shots in Safe Travels requirements was a collaborative one.
“We made this decision in close coordination with the four county mayors, the Department of Health, and in collaboration with Hawai‘i’s travel, hotel, tourism, transportation, retail and restaurant industries,” said Gen. Hara. “I am exceptionally pleased that case counts, and hospitalizations are trending downward and am hopeful that conditions continue to improve so that the state can eventually end Safe Travels and all COVID-19 related restrictions.”
While the visitor industry’s concerns were noted and considered, Gov. Ige said he approved this course of action based on his assessment of the health and safety of Hawaiʻi’s residents, and continued efforts by the community to get residents and visitors vaccinated and boosted.
“While booster shots are not required to travel, we encourage visitors to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines, wear their masks, and travel responsibly throughout our islands for the health and safety of our communities,” said John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. “Many of Hawai‘i’s businesses and visitor industry partners continue to work diligently to get their employees vaccinated and boosted to ensure that we can continue to keep Hawai‘i safe and to be great hosts to our visitors. We appreciate everyone taking personal responsibility to mālama (care for) ourselves and each other.”
Safe Travels Hawai‘i will remain in place at this time, requiring passengers arriving in Hawai‘i to show proof of their vaccination status in order to bypass testing or quarantine requirements.
The Department of Health is currently working on criteria and conditions that would allow the state to eventually end Safe Travels Hawaiʻi, according to the governor’s release. Until that time, the state is using American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the program.
Here on Maui, Mayor Victorino dropped a restriction that had required patrons to show proof of “updated” vaccination status reflecting booster completion for those who qualified, if they wanted to dine inside restaurants, or visit other businesses considered by the county to be “high-risk.” While the booster is no longer required for these activities on Maui, the Mayor’s office notes that a CDC card showing proof of vaccination is still needed. The booster rule was in effect for less than two weeks on Maui between Jan. 24 and Feb. 7, 2022.