After weeks of anticipation, Gov. David Ige today announced that the Safe Travels Hawaii program will not require booster shots as proof that travelers are “up-to-date” on their vaccination in order to bypass the state’s mandatory quarantine.
Instead, Ige said the program would remain unchanged.
“In making this decision, we considered declining COVID-19 case counts in Hawaii, the continental U.S. and Europe,” said Ige in a news release. “Hospitalizations have also dropped. In addition, we looked at Hawaii’s robust vaccination rates and the continued push by businesses and organizations to get their employees vaccinated and boosted for the safety of their families and the community. At this time, we will also maintain the indoor mask mandate and other rules that have helped us manage this pandemic while reopening the economy.”
Under the Safe Travels program, domestic travelers to the state can bypass a mandatory, five-day quarantine by either showing proof of their “up-to-date” vaccination status, defined as 14 days after the initial vaccine series without the booster or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.
The announcement comes just a day after Maui Mayor Michael Victorino’s decision to drop the booster requirement for patrons entering the county’s restaurants, bars, and gyms, which went into effect on Monday.
During the height of the omicron surge in January, some advocates were pushing for boosters to be added to requirements due to the waning efficacy of the initial vaccine series against the highly contagious variant.
Dr. Elizabeth Char, state Department of Health director, reminded the public of the effectiveness of the boosters.
“New research shows a third shot of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is 90 to 94% effective in keeping people out of the hospital,” she said in a news release. “Omicron case counts are dropping but we don’t know if or when we may see another surge in cases of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated and boosted now will help to prevent you from becoming seriously ill. The Department of Health recommends you get vaccinated and get boosted today!”
Ige said in the news release that while he considered the visitor industry’s concerns, he made his decision based on “his assessment of the health and safety of Hawaii’s residents, and continued efforts by the community to get residents and visitors vaccinated and boosted.”
“While booster shots are not required to travel, we encourage visitors to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines, wear their masks, and travel responsibly throughout our islands for the health and safety of our communities,” said John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority in the news release. “Many of Hawaii’s businesses and visitor industry partners continue to work diligently to get their employees vaccinated and boosted to ensure that we can continue to keep Hawaii safe and to be great hosts to our visitors. We appreciate everyone taking personal responsibility to malama (care for) ourselves and each other.”
Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, incident commander for COVID-19 response, said the decision was a collaborative one, made in coordination with DOH, four county mayors, and the travel, retail and restaurant industries.
Additionally, Ige’s news release said DOH is currently working on criteria and conditions that would allow the state to eventually end Safe Travels Hawaii.