Boosters not required for visitors; State’s Safe Travels program continues
LIHU‘E — Mayor Derek Kawakami supports Gov. David Ige’s latest decision to not mandate booster shots to be considered “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 when it comes to the state’s Safe Travels program.
Ige made the announcement Tuesday, pointing to declining COVID-19 case counts in Hawai‘i, mainland U.S. and Europe, and a drop in hospitalizations. Last week, Ige said he was considering the option.
“We looked at Hawai‘i’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,” Ige said.
The Safe Travels program, which began in 2020, requires incoming travelers to Hawai‘i to provide proof of vaccination to bypass a pre-travel COVID-19 test or quarantine. Ige also said the state will continue its indoor mask mandate.
“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,” Gen. Kenneth Hara, incident commander of the state’s COVID-19 response, said.
“We respect and support the governor’s decision,” Kawakami said Tuesday. “Given the widespread nature of the omicron variant, it is clear that the cost to overhaul the Safe Travels program at this point would outweigh the benefits.”
On Kaua‘i, Kawakami said that at this stage of the pandemic, “we are beyond the point of stopping or preventing COVID-19 in our community through the travel restrictions.”
“We are grateful to our businesses, residents and visitors who continue to adhere to these best practices to protect yourselves and those around you,” he said.
State Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char reiterated that while booster shots are not required for travelers, they continue to be effective, pointing to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that indicated a third shot of Pfizer of Moderna vaccines is 90% to 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,” Char said. “Getting vaccinated and boosted now will help to prevent you from becoming seriously ill.”
The DOH is still working on the criteria and conditions on when to end the Safe Travels Hawai‘i program. American Rescue Plan Act funds currently support the program.
According to the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority, about 1,635 people flew into Lihu‘e Airport of the 19,546 that arrived in the state on Monday.
Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.