Hawaii’s Gov. David Ige asked travelers to “restrict and curtail travel” on Monday as cases of COVID-19 have been increasing throughout the island.
“It is a risky time to be traveling right now,” Ige said at a news conference. “I did ask everyone — residents and visitors, alike — to reduce travel to Hawaii to essential business activities only. We do know that it is not a good time to travel to the islands.”
In Hawaii, 70.3% of people have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 62% are fully vaccinated, according to Hawaii’s COVID-19 website. But the state is seeing an 8.3% test positivity rate on a weekly basis, and Ige said hospitals are at capacity and intensive care units are full.
However, visitors have continued to go in droves. In June, more than 791,000 visitors traveled to Hawaii, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, only 16.5% less than the pre-pandemic visitor levels from June 2019.
“Last year in March, when I first asked for visitors to postpone travel to the islands, we saw a 60% reduction in the traffic to Hawaii. And then certainly, ordering the mandatory quarantine of all incoming visitors reduced travel to the islands by 99.5%, essentially 100% of travelers,” Ige said. “The situation that we are in today is different with the availability of vaccines.”
But Ige warned tourists may be disappointed in their trip, pointing to the recent decision to reduce restaurant capacity as well as an ongoing shortage of rental cars.
“We know that the visitors who choose to come to the islands will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit Hawaii,” he said.
While Ige has said in the past he was evaluating the state’s Safe Travels program, travel remains open with the state allowing domestic visitors to skip quarantine by showing proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test from a “trusted partner” site.