Many travelers were thrilled when the state of Hawaii, which has had, by far, the lowest amount of residents with COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic began, finally reopened its doors to visitors last fall. Unfortunately, since each island is allowed to make its own rules, it’s caused quite a bit of confusion.
For example, each island has the option to opt-out of the state’s “Safe Travels” program, That’s the one that requires a single negative COVID-19 test, taken from specific testing sites, before departure for Hawaii. If you agree to that and test negative, you can avoid having to quarantine.
But some counties can require all visitors to quarantine for 10 days. Some can ask for additional screening. Some can set up a modified quarantine program. Some, such a Kauai, do a mixture – visitors to that island can choose to get a negative pre-travel test and then spend three days on another island before testing again and continuing to Kauai. Or, visitors can stay on Kauai from the beginning but be sent to a county-approved “resort bubble” (remember when they were considering those? They went through with it) before getting a test result to be allowed into the community.
To make it easier and less confusing, Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that would standardize the rules regarding the state’s pandemic travel restrictions. That way, they would be the same, regardless of which island you wanted to visit.
The proposed measure would require all counties/islands to allow travelers to be exempt from quarantine if they got a negative COVID-19 test under the state’s program. However it would also limit the state’s ability to make fast changes to rules since they would have to get the legislature involved.
At first glance, the rule would appear to be a shot in the arm for the state’s economy since it would be easier for travelers to hop from island to island (especially Kauai, which, although showing the lowest number of cases in the state, is also the county with the highest unemployment rate). However with the different variants of the virus making their way around the world, if it took hold of Hawaii, the new bill would make it difficult to make new rules quickly.
As quoted in the Associated Press:
“We’ve had all kinds of warning from the scientific community … of the potential danger for the variants,” said James Raymond, a retired Hawaii deputy attorney general who offered testimony Thursday. “If the worst of these or even the modestly conservative estimates prove correct, we would need to implement additional restrictions quickly. This bill would prevent that from happening.”
Members of the House Finance Committee heard testimony on the bill on February 25th. No word on their thoughts; however, either way, Hawaii Governor David Ige would have to approve the plan before it could go into effect.
Feature Photo: Eric Tessmer / Wikimedia
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary