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Hawaii expands ‘vaccine passport’ program amid tourism boom

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 12:56 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 10:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Thursday, Hawaii is allowing domestic travelers who have been fully vaccinated anywhere in the United States to skip quarantine without getting a COVID test.

The change, aimed at streamlining entry into the islands, comes as Hawaii is already experiencing a tourism boom ― with more than 30,000 trans-Pacific travelers coming in daily.

Safe Travels special projects Administrator Sherilyn Kajiwara, called the latest easing of travel restrictions a “game changer.”

To qualify for the quarantine exemption, travelers need to upload one of three documents to Hawaii’s Safe Travels website: An official CDC vaccination card, a federal VAMS printout, or ― for military members ― a DD Form 2766C.

Under the rules, fully vaccinated means you’ve got two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single Johnson & Johnson shot and completed the 15-day waiting period.

Hawaii is relying largely on the honor system to ensure proof of vaccination presented by incoming travelers is valid. Travelers will also have to attest in writing that the documentation is authentic.

That’s in contrast to vaccine cards from those who got the shot in Hawaii. Those are checked against a state database, officials have said.

Kajiwara said the lack of a national database and different rules state-by-state meant a similar system couldn’t be established for all U.S. travelers.

Instead, she said, screeners will review vaccine cards uploaded to the Safe Travels website to ensure travelers are fully vaccinated and have completed the 15-day waiting period after getting the shot.

Kajiwara noted no changes have been made to Safe Travels rules for international travelers.

Those visitors ― along with unvaccinated travelers ― will need to continue to upload a negative COVID test before arrival in the islands in order to avoid quarantine.

Children under 5 are not subject to testing or vaccination rules.

Because only those 12 and up can get the COVID vaccine, children from age 5 to 12 will need to test negative to forgo a mandatory quarantine.

In addition to expanding its “vaccine passport program,” the state is also easing restrictions Thursday on gatherings and restaurants.

Under the new rules:

  • Hawaii restaurants are getting the green light to move to 75% capacity. However, they’ll still need to meet 6-foot social distancing guidelines.
  • Social gatherings of 25 people are now allowed indoors or 75 outdoors.

The state pledged to ease the restrictions when Hawaii neared a vaccination rate of 60%. Right now, 58% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated.

The state’s “vaccine passport” program went into effect earlier this month for those who have been vaccinated in Hawaii and returning to the state.

Until Thursday’s expansion went into effect, travelers vaccinated outside of Hawaii were required to test negative for COVID within 72 hours of arrival and upload their results to Safe Travels.

Separately, the governor has said Hawaii will lift all COVID restrictions when the state reaches a 70% vaccination rate. He said he believes the state could hit that point in two months.

But others disagree ― including his own lieutenant governor.

In an interview with HNN’s Sunrise earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the 70% benchmark was too high and suggested instead tracking the percentage of people who are eligible to get the shot.

In the meantime, he said, Hawaii’s mask mandate and other COVID restrictions remain in place. Statewide, masks are required indoors but not outdoors.

This story will be updated.

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