Ige sets end date for Safe Travels, but says he hasn’t made a decision on mask mandate
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that the state’s Safe Travels program for domestic trans-Pacific travelers will end March 25, but he said he wasn’t ready to set an end date for Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate ― standing alone among the nation’s 50 governors.
Instead, Ige said he’ll make a decision in the coming month on continuing to require masks indoors, allowing for the possibility that the mandate could remain in place into April.
And while he was dropping other restrictions, he urged residents to continue to take precautions.
“The pandemic is not over,” Ige said, at a news conference with Hawaii’s four mayors. “Tragically, we continue to see those we know and love suffer from COVID-19. Each one is a tragic loss.”
Under the state’s plan, the first day travelers could come into the state without any Safe Travels restrictions is March 26. In addition, Ige said other restrictions will also go away that day, including:
- Vaccination or COVID testing requirements for state and county employees;
- A vaccine-or-test mandate for a long list of state properties, including libraries.
Under Safe Travels, trans-Pacific domestic passengers must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to bypass quarantine. Travelers must also fill out a health form and go through screening.
The end of Safe Travels is expected to hasten the recovery of Hawaii’s tourism industry.
“Governor Ige’s decision is a good balance of maintaining reasonable health precautions while reopening our society and economy,” said Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries.
He added, in a statement: “The recovery of Hawaii’s travel market and economy will be a gradual process, and HTA will continue to work diligently to educate visitors about the responsibility that they share with our residents to malama (care for) our home.”
On masking, the governor said he wanted to leave the door open to extending the indoor mandate in the event of a virulent new variant or outbreak. Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a mask mandate still in place, and new CDC guidance says most Americans no longer need one.
“All I’m saying is we do know the mask mandate works,” Ige said.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s counties have dropped all restrictions or have announced plans to do so.
On Monday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Safe Access Oahu would be allowed to sunset Saturday night. The program requires patrons at restaurants, gyms, bars and other venues to show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test result from within the last 48 hours.
“We are totally open come Saturday night with no restrictions and hopefully a return to normalcy,” Blangiardi said, at the news conference.
He added, “We may be ending restrictions but we’re not ending COVID.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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