HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Achieving herd immunity on the mainland was once seen as a key to reviving Hawaii’s tourism economy.
But with vaccination rates slipping in the U.S., scientists and medical experts think that’s now an unreachable goal, forcing state officials to extend Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.
“I think this means we will have to carry on the Safe Travels program throughout the bulk of 2021. I don’t think we’ll sunset that program until presumably fall — November, December — just because we’re having some trouble reaching herd immunity on the mainland,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
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Green said the vaccination passport program is still on schedule for this summer. That program — which would allow mainland travels to avoid the 10-day quarantine and a pre-travel COVID test if they get all of their shots — is expected to provide a huge boost for tourism.
But the entire Safe Travels programs — which includes the testing options and questionnaires for tourists and all of its costs — can’t be dismantled for some time, he said. Green thinks there will be minimal impact — since tourists are clearly willing to take the pre-travel tests.
“I just saw projections on May and June and July look like. They look like very robust travel months — almost at the levels of 2019 when COVID came,” he said.