The COVID delta variant is rapidly spreading throughout Hawaii, but government officials are still allowing vaccinated travelers to visit the state without restrictions.
On Aug. 13, the state set a one-day case count record with 1,167 reported infections, prompting an urgent plea from Hawaii Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char.
“In terms of travel, this is a horrible time to travel,” said Char. “Stay home unless you have to travel, stay home. You don’t know if the person next to you has COVID.”
Despite the sharp uptick in cases, Hawaii has yet to add restrictions to its Safe Travels program. As of Aug. 18, vaccinated domestic travelers are still able to enter the state without taking a pre-travel coronavirus test.
According to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, it’s safe for vaccinated tourists to visit.
“If you got vaccinated, your family got vaccinated, you should go take a trip if you want to,” said Green.
However, Green encouraged airline passengers to “still wear a mask in case you happen to be sitting next to someone with the delta variant for a couple hours.”
When the Safe Travels program launched in October, all Hawaii visitors were required to obtain a negative PCR test result from an approved provider within 72 hours of their arrival or face a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Testing protocols were dropped for vaccinated passengers on July 8, but they remain in place for unvaccinated visitors, including children.
Some exempt Hawaii-bound tourists have reported learning they have COVID after having their children tested to meet the state’s travel requirements.
Massachusetts resident Aja Hastings told KITV News that she and her husband got tested after their 8-year-old son tested positive ahead of their flight. They were shocked to learn they had the virus because they were fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.
“So if it wasn’t for the testing to alert us, we could have been spreading it around on the plane, and then also once in Hawaii,” said Hastings.
Up to 20% of Hawaii’s COVID cases are linked to travel. Most of the infections involve local residents who acquired the virus outside the state and unknowingly brought it home.