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Despite strong vaccination rates, Hawaii’s Safe Travels program likely isn’t ending anytime soon

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 4:28 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:37 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite having one of the best vaccination rates in the country, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor says the state’s Safe Travels Program won’t end anytime soon.

“I don’t think Safe Travels goes away until the rest of the world has seen a great decrease in COVID,” he said. “My gut tells me the governor will be reluctant to do away with it until Spring 2022.”

The policy has been in place a little more than a year.

It requires anyone entering the state to either be vaccinated or have gotten a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of arrival in order to bypass a 10-day quarantine.

While the state is welcoming visitors back and reopening venues, some are worried that Safe Travels could limit Hawaii’s economic rebound.

Arianna Stephens, manager at the Waikiki Grass Shack Bistro, said Safe Travels has served its purpose.

“It wouldn’t hurt to do away with it,” she said. “We don’t get as much of that local crowd coming in too often, so it’s really difficult to try and sustain the business.”

On Monday, she was trying to catch the attention of potential customers as they made their way past her pavilion on Kalakaua Avenue Monday afternoon.

With summer long gone, there are fewer visitors.

That means many shops are struggling to recoup losses brought on by continued COVID restrictions.

But Green says keeping the program in place as the state begins to welcome back international travelers provides a sense of security as other parts of the world try and get a handle of the virus.

“There’s far fewer people that could spread COVID. But it’s not nobody,” he said.

“The reason for the Safe Travels Program and keeping that in place to a degree is because there has been an outbreak in Austria and Germany and in some parts of the United States.”

Currently the state’s COVID infection rate stands at just 1.5%.

Meanwhile, nearly 90% of residents who are eligible for the vaccine have gotten at least one dose of the shot ― making Hawaii one of the most vaccinated states in the country.

Kalihi resident Honi Eram said with vaccination rates so high, it’s safe to lift Safe Travels.

“They should end it already. What are we waiting for?”

But others told HNN they prefer to err on the side of caution.

“It would not deter me from coming back,” said Paul Kinzel, who was visiting from Wisconsin.

California visitor Sharon Richards added, “This is not about what I want. It’s about what’s right and what will keep people safe.”

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