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Hawaii NewsKokua Line

Kokua Line: When will Hawaii expand vaccine exception to fully vaccinated residents returning from other states?

Question: I am desperate to visit my 97-year-old mother in California. I haven’t seen her during this whole pandemic. She can’t come to me. When will they lift the pre-travel testing requirement for Hawaii residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19? It’s not the cost of the test, although $125 is a lot on top of the plane ticket. It’s that with travel to Hawaii so heavy, some drugstores are saying they can’t guarantee the timing of the test result. There’s no way I can quarantine for 10 days when I get back. I would lose my job.

Answer: Yours is the No. 1 question coming into Kokua Line at the moment, although the personal details vary. Caller after caller makes the same plea: for the state government to treat fully vaccinated Hawaii residents flying home from the mainland the same as those traveling within the islands, who are able to skip the 10-day quarantine if they received their COVID-19 vaccine here. (Note: The quarantine does not apply to intercounty travelers flying to Oahu.)

The intercounty vaccine exception took effect May 11. Gov. David Ige has said it would be expanded this month to fully vaccinated Hawaii residents returning from the mainland but hasn’t given an exact date.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii (808ne.ws/spot531) that he hoped the expansion would occur by June 15.

Many other readers also expressed your concern that with the heavy summer travel season, passengers cannot be assured they will receive their negative test result in time to avoid quarantine upon arrival in Hawaii, even if they take the test within the 72-hour pre-departure window. Others are upset about being subjected to the extra expense, inconvenience and stress of testing, despite being fully vaccinated.

State officials have given varying explanations for the slow expansion, including that the Ige administration prefers to make changes incrementally so that effects can be measured; that it’s been difficult to upgrade the Safe Travels app to read handwritten vaccine cards with inconsistent verbiage; and, the latest rationale, that Ige wants at least 60% of the state fully vaccinated before lifting more restrictions.

While Green was upbeat about reaching that percentage quickly, readers we heard from after his appearance were despondent, noting that it’s taken Hawaii more than five months to reach the 50% mark and the vaccination rate has slowed since the first doses were given in mid-December. As one reader put it, “Summer might be over before we get there!”

Q: So many times when they have a COVID-19 death on the news, they say the person had “underlying conditions.” Have any of the people who died of COVID- 19 in Hawaii not had underlying conditions?

A: Yes. Seven of 477 Hawaii COVID-19 deaths analyzed as of Saturday involved people with no underlying conditions, according to the state Department of Health.

Hawaii’s COVID-19 death toll reached 500 on Sunday, but the presence or absence of underlying conditions has not been updated yet for the all the deaths.

For more information about which underlying conditions are the riskiest for COVID-19 patients, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, at 808ne.ws/undercon.

Q: My boss is talking about “incentives” for getting vaccinated at work since we are going back to the office soon. Is that allowed? What about those of us who already got vaccinated on our own, with the incentive being we didn’t want to catch or spread COVID-19!?

A: To your first question, yes, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers administering vaccines to their employees can offer incentives to get vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive. Employers also may offer incentives for employees to voluntarily document or confirm that they’ve been vaccinated by a third party (not the employer), such as a pharmacy, mass vaccination clinic or personal health provider.

Since you’re already vaccinated, perhaps you can encourage your boss to also extend whatever incentive is offered to employees who didn’t need to be nudged.

Q: Can anyone get the vaccine at the International Market Place?

A: You are referring to the mobile vaccination clinic scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Friday and June 11 at the Waikiki shopping center, on Level 3, near the valet area. These clinics are not open to foreign tourists, according to a spokesman for the Queen’s Health System. You have to be a U.S. resident with a government-issued ID, he said.

Pre-registration is encouraged but not required. For more information, go to 808ne.ws/imvac or call 691-2222.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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