Thinking of a last-minute getaway to Hawaii? Planning a trip for later in the year instead could not only help reduce the islands’ record-breaking coronavirus surge, but also help you have a better vacation, according to Hawaii public officials.
“It is not a good time to travel to the islands,” Gov. David Ige said at a Honolulu press conference Monday. “Restaurant capacity has been restricted, there is limited access to rental cars and we know that the visitors who choose to come to the island will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they come to Hawaii.”
Ige asked residents and visitors alike to “reduce travel” to Hawaii for the next four weeks, noting that hospitals statewide are “full” or dangerously near capacity. He said he has also asked airlines serving Hawaii — many of which have been offering heavily discounted fall airfares to the islands — to “do whatever they could” to lower the number of arrivals.
“We have to discourage travel to the islands until we can get to a better place with our healthcare facilities,” Ige said.
Earlier in the month, the governor reduced restaurant capacity across the state to 50 percent with six-foot distancing between tables and restricted social gatherings to no more than 10 people indoors and 25 outside. Professionally produced events such as luaus and weddings are still allowed to operate with larger numbers, but must follow mitigation plans.
Mayors on the islands are also mulling further limits, such as a temporary closure of beach and shoreline parks on Hawaii Island, where case numbers are nearing 1,000 a day and the test positivity rate is 8 percent.
Some residents are chafing at the lack of more limits on visitors, who are no longer subject to pre-arrival Covid testing and who sometimes flagrantly violate Hawaii’s masking and distancing policies. Yet health officials note community spread is the cause of some 90 percent of cases. That is also the percentage involving unvaccinated people, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also an emergency room doctor.
Meanwhile, the number of visitors testing positive for coronavirus is 1 to 2 percent, and only 10 to 12 percent of all cases involve travel, typically residents who return infected from the mainland, according to Green.
The state’s tally of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated is just above 60 percent, although Ige said he expects the FDA’s recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine to raise that number. Earlier in August, the Merriman’s restaurant group in Hawaii became the first hospitality business in the state to require all employees to be vaccinated or, in limited exceptions, undergo weekly testing.
Libby Char, director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, said at Monday’s press conference that residents should focus on their own behavior. “What are we doing? We need to stay home, we need to wear our masks, we need to keep our distance,” she said. “It’s our community, it’s our hospitals and it’s up to us, we can impact that.”
Here’s what’s being reported in the news.
Honolulu Advertiser reports on the latest in Covid cases. They have a static page — as of August 25th, 61 percent of the population is vaccinated.
Big Island Video News: “Now is not a Good Time to Travel to Hawaii.”
No surprise, the New York Post, came up with a clever intro, “More like the A-no-ha State.”
And KPIX, out of San Francisco, did a great job of interviewing locals to give us a complete picture.