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Kokua Line: How can I use my vaccine exception for a trip home to Hawaii from Europe?

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A trio had their picture taken Thursday at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A trio had their picture taken Thursday at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii’s Safe Travels program began a new phase Thursday that allows for mainland U.S. travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated to skip quarantine and pre-travel COVID-19 testing. Travelers picked up their luggage Thursday at a baggage claim in Terminal 1 at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii’s Safe Travels program began a new phase Thursday that allows for mainland U.S. travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated to skip quarantine and pre-travel COVID-19 testing. Travelers picked up their luggage Thursday at a baggage claim in Terminal 1 at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The shores of Waikiki were crowded Thursday.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The shores of Waikiki were crowded Thursday.

Question: If I fly to Europe but it’s not a direct flight, can I use my vaccine exception to come home without quarantining?

Answer: Yes, assuming that the flight that returns you to Hawaii originates in a U.S. state or territory. Hawaii’s Safe Travels digital platform (travel.hawaii.gov) requires the passenger to input details about their flight to Hawaii — not every flight taken during a multiflight trip. As you know, international arrivals direct from foreign airports are not eligible for Hawaii’s vaccine exception to quarantine.

To be clear, federal rules separate from Hawaii’s Safe Travels program require “air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people … to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months before they board a flight to the United States,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So if you travel abroad before the federal rules change — no date for changes has been announced — you’ll have to be tested to enter the United States, before you board your domestic flight to Hawaii, at which point you could use your vaccine exception to avoid quarantine.

Q: I uploaded my vaccine card to the Safe Travel app and used the exception to return to Hawaii with no problem. My question is, Will I have to upload it every time I return from the mainland? I will be traveling a lot over the next few months now that I can finally get my business going again.

A: The Safe Travels app says eligible passengers need to upload their vaccination document only once, but we’d check before each trip to make sure the document links properly each time. You will need to create a new trip form within your account for each subsequent trip, for as long as the Safe Travels system remains in place.

Q: Uploading a COVID-19 vaccination card to the Safe Travels site requires signing an attestation document online. How is this digital signature done?

A: Use your computer mouse, your finger or a stylus, depending on what kind of electronic device you are using to create your Safe Travels account. This is a common question; it doesn’t dawn on some folks creating their Safe Travels account on a desktop computer, for example, to use their computer mouse as a writing implement.

Q: I hadn’t been off island since before the pandemic, and I was shocked when I had to pay airport parking when I got home. EVs used to be free. When did this change?

A: A little over a year ago, on July 1, 2020. The state law that had provided electric vehicles free parking at state airports and most state and county parking lots since 2012 was repealed as of that date, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Q: I had to amend my federal income tax return, which I mailed on the May 17 extended filing deadline for regular returns. I still haven’t gotten my refund. I have called a million times and never get through. Is there anything I can do?

A: It’s unlikely a telephone representative would have been able to help you even if you had gotten through, because the Internal Revenue Service says it’s taking up to 16 weeks to process amended returns and that “telephone assistors” can’t provide any information during processing.

You might be able to find out the status of your return online, using the IRS “Where’s My Amended Return?” tool, at irs.gov/filing/wheres-my-amended-return. Please note that this is different from the usual “Where’s My Refund?” tool, which doesn’t work for amended returns.

The IRS says it takes up to three weeks after mailing for an amended return to show up in its electronic system and that processing can take far longer than that.

To use the online tool, you’ll need to input your Social Security number, date of birth and ZIP code.

As you know, the toll-free telephone number to check on the status of an amended return is 866-464-2050. Currently, the IRS says taxpayers who mailed in their amended return shouldn’t bother calling unless it’s been 16 weeks or more since they mailed the return. In your case that would not be until Sept. 6.

Q: How much is the state borrowing to pay unemployment benefits while Hawaii’s economy is restricted?

A: A total of $717 million as of July 2, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.


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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