There has been an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases in Hawaii, and, consequently, the state’s governor now asks tourists to stay away from the islands.
In a news conference on Monday, Governor David Ige asked Hawaii residents and visitors to delay all non-essential travel through the end of October 2021 due to the state’s high number of COVID-19 cases. The request is critical because the state’s hospitals are now near capacity — straining its health care facilities and resources.
“It is a risky time to be traveling right now,” Ige said. “I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii, residents and visitors alike. This is not a good time to travel to the islands.”
A Surge In COVID-19 Cases
Approximately 62 percent of Hawaiian residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, this past Sunday was — unfortunately — a record day for new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii. In fact, Sunday set a 1-day high of 885 new cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii.
Monday was nearly as bad. On that day, 571 additional COVID-19 cases were reported in Hawaii. Of those cases, 359 are on Oahu, 107 are on Hawaii Island, 79 are on Maui, 23 are on Kauai, 2 are on Lanai, and 1 Hawaii resident was diagnosed while out of state.
Hawaii has reported 56,670 new cases since the pandemic began, however, 9,389 new COVID-19 cases have been reported in the past two weeks, according to state data. That represents an average of 704 cases per day for the state over the past 7 days.
The result is that hospital occupancy rates across the state are now near a critical level.
“If things do not change, our health care systems will be crippled and those needing medical care for all types of diseases, injuries, and conditions — including our visitors — may find it difficult to get the treatment they need right away,” Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the Department of Health, said at the news conference.
News That Was Expected
Governor Ige’s request does not entirely come as a surprise, especially since island mayors have been in close communication with his office.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said in a Khon2 article that the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 is a concern for the county. It is now “time to take action and request more restrictions,” he said.
“It’s spreading all over, all over the state, all over this county,” Victorino said.
Last week, Hawaii island Mayor Mitch Roth asked Governor Ige in a letter to reinstate a pre-travel testing program for all visitors and residents flying into Hawaii — regardless of vaccination status.
“The consistent rise of COVID-19 cases within the state of Hawaii and across the country has reached record heights and has put an unbearable strain on our health systems and communities at-large,” Roth wrote, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story reports. “On Hawaii Island alone, our hospitals are at capacity and are unable to in-take any more critical care patients.”
Then, yesterday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced that all large gatherings on Oahu with more than 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors will be canceled — beginning tomorrow. The ban will remain in place for at least 28 days.
Will Flights Be Reduced?
Governor Ige said he has talked with airlines, hotels, and other tourism businesses about spreading the message that this is not an appropriate time to visit Hawaii — except for essential business. Ige said he has asked them to “do what they could” to curtail tourism.
However, in response to the governor’s request to limit visitors, Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex Da Silva said in a statement that “We are acutely aware of the stress on our health care system imposed by new COVID-19 cases, and our hearts go out to those affected,” a USA Today article reports.
“We continue to believe that the single most valuable measure to address this crisis is increasing the vaccination rate in our community, which is why we have announced our intent to require our employees to be vaccinated,” Da Silva wrote. “Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, which is unprecedented in the nation, requires travelers to be vaccinated or tested to avoid quarantine and has been effective in managing the number of travel-related cases.”
Know Before You Go
It should be noted that Governor Ige’s request to avoid travel to Hawaii does not mean travelers cannot visit Hawaii because the state has not tightened entry requirements — at least not yet, anyway. And while there has been speculation that Hawaii will mandate a COVID-19 test requirement before traveling to the state, Ige admits that requirement would be difficult to enforce since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that domestic travel is safe for travelers vaccinated against COVID-19.
Nonetheless, the situation certainly is in flux. If you are planning to travel to Hawaii, be sure to stay up to date on the state’s travel requirements. You can find those details here.
While you’re thinking about visiting the islands when it’s safer, be sure to read all of our Hawaii coverage.