Back in July, Hawaii launched its “Safe Travels Program,” which allows trans-Pacific travelers to sidestep the 14-day quarantine period if showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination.
The program was meant to be in place until around September when 70% of Hawaiians have received two full series of a COVID-19 vaccine but now is unclear if that percentage could be achieved this year.
To make matters worse, Dr. Tim Brown, a top infectious disease modeler and senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii said such a percentage remains insufficient to fight the highly transmissible Delta variant which is spreading rapidly in the community.
“No, I don’t believe that’s a safe benchmark anymore,” said Brown. “It actually would have been a safe benchmark probably for the virus last year. It was low enough, effectively, at that point. The problem is, the more infectious the virus is, the higher the level of protection needed to reach so-called herd immunity.”
Given that children under age 12 are not eligible to receive a vaccine, the so-called 70% of vaccinated people needed to reach herd immunity promised by Gov. David Ige, in fact, translates to around 82%.
To date, only 59.6% of Hawaiians are double-jabbed. And, according to data from The Department of Health, there has been a substantial decline in the state’s vaccination rates in the last weeks.
“Safe Travels Program” remains as a key tool in the battle against COVID-19. In a recent interview, Gov. Ige warned travelers daring to cheat the system could be banned from entering the islands.
“I do think that the Safe travels program (…) has been an important part of how we manage COVID(…) We [will] prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. We have arrested and prosecuted individuals who falsified documents, test results” said Ige.
“Someone who blatantly disregards the law and has no respect for the law is certainly [a visitor] we don’t want to have free reign to travel to the islands,” he added.