Hawaii will expand vaccination exception travel program

Gov. David Ige announced starting July 8, the Hawaii vaccine exemption program will apply to Hawaii-bound travelers vaccinated in the U.S. and territories. The program will allow vaccinated travelers to bypass current testing and quarantining COVID-19 restrictions.

 

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State guidelines say that unless they have proof of vaccination, travelers must either receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight, or quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. Currently these exemptions only apply to returning travelers who were vaccinated in Hawaii.

The expansion comes just shy of a busy July 4 holiday. Gov. Ige refused to lift the quarantine restriction before the state reached a 60 percent vaccination rate, despite requests from state officials. 

Gov. Ige plans to remove all travel restrictions when the state reaches a 70 percent vaccination rate. 

“Reaching that goal is going to depend on all of us encouraging folks we know, especially young adults and other groups who have yet to be vaccinated. It’s a challenge the White House says many states are facing. We’re seeing COVID-19 clusters of unvaccinated individuals who can spread the disease, so it’s important for more people to be protected. We’re also using the baseline of the state’s whole population because even those who are not eligible to be vaccinated can be infected by the virus and infect others. It affects the health of the whole community and helps determine the point at which we would feel comfortable dropping restrictions.”

Vaccine rates in Hawaii have continued to slow over the course of this year. As of Friday, 58.3 percent of the state is vaccinated — just a 1.3 percent increase over nine days. The state currently vaccinates about 3,100 people a day, according to CDC data. This is a significant drop from peak vaccination rates in April, when the state administered about 32,000 vaccine doses a day. 

To provide residents with an incentive for getting vaccinated, the state launched the #HIGotVaccinated campaign. The program, which enters vaccinated people to win airline miles, discounts, and other prizes, helped spur 30 percent more vaccinations than expected in June, according to the Hawaiʻi Department of Health. Over 240,000 vaccinated individuals have entered the program so far. 

Gov. Ige announced the program’s first two winners last week. A second round of winners, and additional prizes, will be announced in July.