Want to visit Hawaii without taking a COVID test or quarantining? Flash your COVID-19 vaccination card. And, no, you won’t have to be boosted to be considered fully vaccinated.
The state, which has had the most strict entry program in the country since reopening in October 2020, decided against adding a booster requirement, Gov. David Ige said Tuesday.
Ige had repeatedly said the idea was on the table, going so far as to tell at least one mayor the target date to implement the program was Feb. 18 and have officials start tweaking the website where travelers upload vaccination information.
The idea was not extraordinary – several countries have added a booster requirement to their entry rules – but would have been a first for a U.S. tourist destination.
Booster requirements are already common in bars, restaurants and tourist attractions checking vaccination status and the Hawaiian island of Maui briefly required booster shots to eat inside restaurants and bars without taking a COVID-19 test. That policy ended Monday.
The decision not to proceed was made in consultation with Hawaii’s four county mayors, health officials and tourism businesses, the governor’s office said in a statement.
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“In making this decision, we considered declining COVID-19 case counts in Hawai‘i, the continental U.S. and Europe,” Ige said in the statement. “Hospitalizations have also dropped. In addition, we looked at Hawai’i’s robust vaccination rates and the continued push by businesses and organizations to get their employees vaccinated and boosted for the safety of their families and the community.”
Ige said the state will continue its indoor mask mandate to help manage the pandemic while “reopening the economy” and he and others encouraged visitors to get boosted and take other precautions.
“While booster shots are not required to travel, we encourage visitors to stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccines, wear their masks, and travel responsibly throughout our islands for the health and safety of our communities,” John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawai’i Tourism Authority, said in the statement. “Many of Hawai’i’s businesses and visitor industry partners continue to work diligently to get their employees vaccinated and boosted to ensure that we can continue to keep Hawai’i safe and to be great hosts to our visitors. We appreciate everyone taking personal responsibility to mālama (care for) ourselves and each other.”
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Do you need to be vaccinated to visit Hawaii?
Boosted or not, tourists do not have to be vaccinated to visit Hawaii. The state’s Safe Travels program, launched in October 2020 and tweaked several times since, also allows visitors to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test from an approved provider.
Those who are fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before departure are able to skip the state’s mandatory five-day quarantine. Visitors who arrive without proof of either must quarantine at their own expense upon arrival and are closely monitored.
Hawaii bound tourist: ‘Just a huge relief’
The expected booster requirement had some travelers scrambling.
Utah copywriter Emily Hill has a family trip to Kauai planned for spring break in April. It’s a rescheduled trip from 2020. The flights and Airbnb are already booked.
Everyone in the family of six is vaccinated but she is the only one who is boosted.
The booster requirement alone would not have scuttled their trip but the testing requirement would have made for an anxious three days as they awaited results.
Hill was worried about the possibility of one of the children testing positive for COVID-19, which would force the cancellation of the trip. She doesn’t mind flight credits but says she won’t be able to get her money back for the vacation rental a few days before the trip.
“It’s just a huge relief,” she told USA TODAY.
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