Hawaii is likely just eight to 10 days away from dropping COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements for travelers from the mainland, Alaska and U.S. territories who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said on Wednesday.
Currently domestic travelers have to receive a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arriving in Hawaii, or quarantine for 10 days.
Gov. David Ige earlier this month announced that the quarantine requirement for vaccinated domestic travelers would end once 60% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated against COVID. As of Wednesday, that figure stood at 55%.
However, the wait for international travelers hoping to show proof of vaccination in order to bypass Hawaii’s pre-testing requirement is likely to be significantly longer due to concerns about the introduction of new variants.
“I think that international travel is going to continue to be assessed, but not greenlighted for some time,” said Green during an interview on Spotlight Hawaii. He said that restrictions probably won’t be dropped until Hawaii has vaccinated at least 70% of the population. At that point, all COVID restrictions are expected to end in Hawaii.
That’s a more difficult benchmark for the state to reach because it includes more than 200,000 children who are not eligible for the vaccine. That means 82% of all eligible residents, those ages 12 and up, have to be vaccinated in order to reach the benchmark. A vaccine isn’t expected to be cleared for children under 12 until September or October.
Green said it’s a realistic goal to vaccinate 70% of the entire population. But when asked if he thought it was too conservative, he said, “Yes, because I’m a trouble-making emergency medicine, lieutenant governor and (Ige) is a more cautious, conservative, engineer governor.
“But the benefit is that we have not been killing people with COVID like a lot of other states. So our caution has been good,” said Green.
The state has slowly been easing travel restrictions over the past month as more of the population gets vaccinated and case counts drop. Meanwhile, visitor arrivals have surged.
On Tuesday, Ige dropped all restrictions on interisland travel allowing Hawaii residents regardless of their vaccination status to travel between islands without having to obtain a negative COVID test prior to travel. The state also allowed people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine in Hawaii to skip the testing requirement if they are returning from a trip on the mainland.
Green said that more than 2,000 Hawaii residents had reentered the state on Tuesday by showing their vaccination cards.