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Hawaii Likely To Tighten Travel Restrictions In 2022

Covid-19 cases are once again on the rise in the US due to the highly contagious Omicron variant and lack of vaccination throughout the nation. Restrictions on inbound international travel have already begun to tighten, as travelers need to show proof that they’re fully vaccinated with a negative test result that’s no more than one day old. 

The state of Hawaii already has limited on-island medical centers and resources, so they’re considering strengthening their own requirements for those arriving to the islands. Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Josh Green is pushing for tighter travel restrictions to be implemented in the near future. 

“The recommendation should be that you’re either boosted or tested, real straightforward, and I think that will come in the New Year.”

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Throughout the entire pandemic Hawaii has implemented some of the strictest interstate entry requirements. 

After Hawaii launched its Safe Travels program, the state was met with a large number of tourists who were looking to escape to the islands. Governor David Ige responded to this uptick in travel by pleading with visitors to delay their visits so the hospitality industry could recover from the past summer. 

With the sudden and rapid increase in Omicron infections, Hawaii-bound travelers may find themselves facing stricter restrictions in the coming weeks. 

According to Jessica Lani Rich at the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH), there’s been an “increase in calls coming in from visitors who test positive while they’re already in the destination. The new CDC guidance has encouraged some such infected vacationers to ride out their on-island isolation period and then salvage the remainder of their trip, rather than just returning home.”

“The majority of our visitors do not have the funds to spend an extra two weeks during the holidays and so, for those visitors, they are happy that the CDC has changed the rules,” she told local KITV4 News.

Hawaii Set To Welcome Back Travelers On Nov. 1

After seeing a considerable drop in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Hawaii’s governor David Ige said on Twitter that the state plans to reopen to both essential and non-essential travelers (regardless of vaccination status) starting on Nov. 1.

“I’m encouraged by the continuing trend of lower case counts of COVID in our islands. Our hospitals are doing better and seeing fewer patients. This gives us the ability to move forward in our economic recovery and safely welcome back fully vaccinated domestic travelers.”

Due to Hawaii’s “Safe Travels” program (which will continue to remain in effect), non-vaccinated travelers will be required to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their departure time to Hawaii, or be subjected to a 10-day mandatory quarantine. Visitors will also have to have to go through temperature screening upon arrival.

Ige stated that Hawaii is continuing to see information from the federal government about international travels plans, and that an appropriate plan will be in place prior to Nov. 8. Ige also assured Hawaii will continue to monitor case counts and hospitalizations, and will make adjustments when necessary while also prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of its residents.

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Hawaiian Airlines has also stated that it’s important for Hawaii to match its travel policies with federal rules on internal travel in order to avoid confusion while erasing further screenings and testings.

According to John Hopkins University, Hawaii has recorded 82,730 COVID-19 cases and 876 deaths. The state saw a spike in late August, when it had a seven-day average of 921 cases and five deaths. Due to the uptick, Ige asked travelers on Aug. 23 to stay away.

Hawaii local news station KHON noted that Ige’s request for non-essential travelers to stop entering the state was just that – no enforcements were made to travel rules. However, visitors listened, and the impact it had was very visible.

Hawaii’s stoppage of non-essential travelers sent shockwaves throughout the Hawaii tourism industry. At one point, Maui County saw up to 52,000 room cancellations and a loss of around $25.2 million. Hotel occupancy, which is typically around 50 to 60% in September, dropped to 30%.

“Since the governor’s request for nonessential travel to halt, the industry has seen cancellations increase and occupancy cut nearly in half in some instances,” Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann stated at the time. “Some hotels have been forced to offer discounts in order to keep operating, and all of this taking place during our normal slow season.”

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Businesses also had to pull back job offers and experienced layoffs due to the lack of visitor activity. When it was all said and done, the industry lost millions of dollars in economic revenue. Now, tourism leaders will hope to recoup those losses once the visitor numbers start to inch back up.

It remains to be seen whether businesses and hotels will be ready for the reopening in two weeks. However, while Hannemann said that there could be challenges — such as large gatherings — he would rather face a problem like this than what they had to go through in September and October.

Currently, Hawaii has a seven-day average of 124 cases and three deaths. Hawaii also possesses close to a 70% vaccination rating. As USA Today notes, most of Hawaii’s visitors during the pandemic have come from the other 49 states due to other countries continuing to have rigid travel restrictions.

Tourism plays a major role in Hawaii’s economy – in 2019, visitor spending added up to $17.75 billion, and tourism supported 216,000 jobs. In August 2021, Hawaii saw 211,269 total visitors. That’s greatly up from August 2020’s total of 22,625 visitors, but still down from August 2019’s 252,916 visitors.

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Governor Cuomo Announces New Travel Restriction Enforcement’s For New York

Governor Cuomo announced this week that he would be implementing even more travel enforcement operations at all airports in the state in order to ensure that all travelers coming into New York follow quarantine guidelines and restrictions. After New York became one of the country’s initial epicenters for Covid-19 at the beginning of this pandemic, the administration has made it a goal to protect itself from that happening again.

Part of the operation includes having enforcement teams stationed at every airport in New York State. These teams will meet arriving planes at the gates to greet all passengers as they exit into the airport. The enforcement teams will request proof of completion from every passenger in regards to their State Department of Health traveler forms. These forms are given to all airline passengers before, during, and after all flights to New York. 

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The state has now made these forms electronic as well to make it easier for passengers to complete before coming in and out of the state. The Department of Health in New York is also issuing an emergency health order that requires all out-of-state travelers coming into New York to complete the DOH traveler form before coming into the state. Travelers who fail to complete the forms before leaving the airport will be subject to a fine of $2,000 and may be brought in for a court hearing that will order a mandatory state-issued quarantine. 

A multitude of airlines have pledged to help make passengers more hyper-aware of these forms and the importance of filling them out. Many airlines have opted to use pre-flight emails/announcements, as well as in-flight announcements throughout the course of the entire trip. 

If you’re an out-of-state traveler that’s from one of the state’s on New York’s designated travel list you must fill out one of the DOH traveler forms online beforehand, this also holds true if you’re planning on entering the state via train or car. Currently New York has 19 states listed as meeting the criteria for a required quarantine. Cuomo states that it’s up to every out-of-state traveler to comply with the rules if the nation has any chance at recovering. 

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“New York’s success in fighting the COVID-19 virus is under two threats: lack of compliance and the virus coming to New York from other states with increasing infection rates.” 

Larger more commercial airlines will be hiring peace officers and various employees from state agencies to work on the enforcement teams for arriving flights everyday. More regional airports throughout the state will have the teams on site based on the number of daily arrivals. As you could imagine, smaller more regional airports are seeing a lot less traffic especially when compared to larger ones that are located in more populated areas such as NYC. 

Regional airport enforcement teams will also be made up of State DOH employees as well as local police depending on the area. Each airport is being required by the state to set up a large physical space at each gate that stands out and is clear to passengers. These areas will have proper social distancing markers set up and will hopefully work to run smoothly and quickly so that passengers can exit the airport as quickly and safely as possible.