Hawaii Gov. David Ige is asking tourists to stay home and delay any holiday plans in the region until at least November as the state’s covid-19 case numbers soar. Hawaii is averaging about 650 new cases a day, a troubling uptick from a month ago when the state was averaging just 138 cases per day.
“I have asked that all non-essential travel for residents and visitors to Hawaii be delayed or curtailed through the end of October,” Ige said during a livestream interview with the Star Advertiser.
“I’ve been on calls with all the airlines and I’ve talked with the hotel industry to support this requirement. I think it’s important that we reduce the number of visitors coming here to the islands,” Ige continued.
Ultimately, it all comes down to Hawaii’s health care system, which is being stressed like so many other hospital systems around the world.
“It is about hospital capacity and our ability to take care of those that need care,” Ige said.
Ige pointed to New York City’s vaccine mandate for staff and customers at places like bars and restaurants as a model that Hawaii could emulate for its own hospitality industry, but the question would be how to verify everyone’s vaccination status. Ige said it’s entirely possible that Hawaii may create its own standalone phone app or a website to verify that visitors had received a vaccine.
Hawaii has kept cases relatively low throughout the pandemic with strict rules around travel. The state banned visitors from months and required anyone who was visiting to self-quarantine for 10 days. Health officials in Hawaii also used to require that all visitors take a pre-travel test for coronavirus, a requirement that stopped last month.
Hawaii currently bans outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people and indoor gatherings of more than 10. Restaurants can only operate at 50% capacity and masks are required indoors except when eating and drinking. The rules are in place until October 18, though they could be extended.
The state has been tremendously successful at getting its people vaccinated, with 62% of all people over 12 years old full vaccinated, the seventh best rate of all states in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.
But here’s a huge age discrepancy when you drill down on Hawaii’s vaccination numbers. The cohort with the highest vaccination rate is 65-74 year olds, with 95.9% of people in that age group vaccinated. But just 51.2% of kids aged 12-17 are vaccinated, and kids under 12 aren’t eligible to be vaccinated. And that’s precisely why we’re seeing so many kids getting covid-19, thanks in large part to the delta variant, which is highly transmissible.
If you have an upcoming holiday to Hawaii, see if you can reschedule, even if you’re vaccinated. Because while vaccination is a great tool that’s likely to keep you out of the hospital, even people who are vaccinated can get and spread the delta variant to others. Do your part. Hawaii will still be there after October, we promise.