Gov. David Ige announced today that Hawaii will begin accepting a vaccination exemption on May 11 for interisland travelers who received their vaccination in Hawaii.
It’s been more than two weeks since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine.
Ige included the framework for vaccine-related travel exemptions in his April 9 emergency proclamation but waited until today to approve a start date. So far, the vaccination exemption only applies to interisland travelers, who received their vaccination in Hawaii and can prove that they have been fully vaccinated and have waited the required 14 day period.
Ige said state and county mayors decided to start the vaccination exemption program with those who had been vaccinated in Hawaii because “we can verify the information and their vaccination status.”
Ige said the phased approach would allow officials to “validate the screening process.” He said it also would allow the state and counties to “learn about what kinds of bottle necks and delays it may inject into our screening process for interisland travel.”
“We are monitoring and continue to monitor the rate of virus activity in our community, hospitalizations and fatalities here caused by COVID-19,” Ige said. “Our number one priority remains protecting the health and well-being of Hawaii’s citizens. We continue to work to improve the systems and programs in order to keep our community safe and re-energize our economy.”
Qualifying interisland travelers may begin entering their information into Safe Travels Hawaii https://travel.hawaii.gov/on May 7 for travel on or after May 11.
The vaccination exemption will allow qualifying interisland travelers to bypass the state’s 10-day travel quarantine without going through the Safe Travels Hawaii pre-testing program or post-arrivals county testing.
But the program doesn’t yet allow travelers, who were vaccinated in Hawaii, and are entering Hawaii on Trans-Pacific flights to exempt the quarantine. Unvaccinated children aged five and above, who are traveling with qualifying interisland travelers, also will need to get a pre-test.
Ige said the state is taking a phased in approach to vaccination exemptions, and isn’t likely to expand it to domestic trans-Pacific travelers until summer. International travelers from nations such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia and Canada would be added later, Ige said.
The vaccination exemption isn’t replacing the Safe Travels Hawaii travel pre-testing program, https://travel.hawaii.gov/, which will still be available to travelers who do not qualify for the exemption, such as children who cannot be vaccinated and do not qualify for the exemption.
The pre-testing program also is available for trans-Pacific travelers and those interisland travelers who haven’t been included yet in the state’s vaccination exemption program.
Unvaccinated and trans-Pacific travelers may bypass a 10-day mandatory quarantine period if they comply with the Safe Travels pre-testing program, which requires that they complete a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) lab. The COVID-19 test must be administered by one of Hawaii’s approved trusted testing partners https://hawaiicovid19.com/travel-partners/and taken within 72 hours before departure of the final leg of their trip to Hawaii.
Travelers seeking a pre-test exemption may upload their negative test results into Safe Travels prior to departure or presenting Hawaii officials with a hard copy of their results, which was printed out prior to departure. To help prevent unforeseen obstacles, travelers should upload the test and bring a copy of it with them.
Like domestic travelers, international travelers coming from nations that are part of Hawaii’s Safe Travels program may not avoid the mandatory 10 day quarantine unless they take a pre-travel test from a trusted testing and travel partner 72 hours prior to departure on the final leg of their journey to Hawaii.
Watch the press conference via the video above, or visit Gov. Ige’s Facebook page.