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State: Hundreds of COVID cases in July were linked to unvaccinated Hawaii travelers

(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 2:50 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 23, 2021 at 4:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Epidemiologists and government officials are urging Hawaii travelers to be responsible about flying to the mainland because of a testing gap that’s allowed hundreds of cases of COVID-19 into Hawaii.

Unvaccinated trans-Pacific travelers to Hawaii are required to take a COVID test within 72 hours of flying in order to forgo the state’s mandatory quarantine.

But short trips to Las Vegas or elsewhere mean those tests miss most infections.

The state estimates 20% of infections in July are due to out-of-state travel by unvaccinated residents.

Experts say travelers should be vaccinated. Travelers who aren’t vaccinated should self-quarantine and get tested when they get home, experts said.

“If they were in a high-risk spot like Las Vegas or Texas, they are going to very likely have caught this very sticky COVID variant delta,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said Hawaii residents traveling while unvaccinated are putting themselves and others at risk. “It’s just disastrous and I can’t believe that people would be so inconsiderate of their own family and the people they live around,” he said.

Green had this advice for unvaccinated travelers: “Lay low, take a test after three days. I think that makes a lot of sense.”

He added that traveling while unvaccinated could put whole households at risk.

“They are going to come back even if they stay at home, even if they follow quarantine, they are going to give it to their significant other or their children who are unvaccinated and then we are going to get this community spread.”

Green estimates 1,700 unvaccinated residents return from trips every day, which would make mandatory quarantine or testing impractical.

“If you are not vaccinated and you travel, you have to be honorable about it and not risk anyone else,” said Green.

Added Miller: “If you are going to travel and bring it back, that’s just not aloha. That’s just bad.”

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