Can you travel to Hawaii during the pandemic?

can Americans travel to Hawaii coronavirus pandemic
Photo via Erik Cooper/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Hawaii has had some of the toughest quarantine rules in the nation. But considering Hawaii has the third-least amount of cases in the country, it might be worth asking this question: Can Americans travel to Hawaii from the mainland during the pandemic?

As of October, the answer is: Maybe, and depending where you’re going, you might not even need to quarantine for 14 days once you get there.

Though Gov. David Ige (D) originally put into place a mandatory quarantine for people arriving at the island, he said in mid-September that visitors could bypass the 14-day quarantine by testing negative within 72 hours of their arrival, beginning on Oct. 15. That includes Japanese tourists who are looking for a jaunt across the Pacific Ocean. And apparently California lawmakers looking to attend a conference.

But in late November, Ige allowed Kauai to opt out of that plan and enforce a 14-day quarantine for any visitors to that particular island.

Clearly, people are looking to get away. In August, online searches for travel to Hawaii increased by almost 50%, according to Skyscanner. And Hawaii and its hurting economy would certainly welcome travelers, especially if they want to play golf.

“We’ll try our best to give you that quality spirit of aloha that we’ve always been known for,” Mufi Hannemann, the president of the Hawaii Tourism & Lodging Assn, told the newspaper. “Don’t take us off your list yet.”

Originally, the quarantine didn’t sound like much fun.

“Quarantine means that you stay in your room,” Ige said in April. “You can’t go to the pool. You can’t go to any facility at the hotel. You get your meals delivered. And when visitors understand that’s what it is and that we’ll enforce it, we are pretty confident they’ll choose not to be here.”

Compared to most of the rest of the U.S., Hawaii doesn’t have many cases, and for much of the pandemic has, it was lauded as one of the best-performing states. But, as Politico noted, the state got complacent, and by mid-August, it was hitting its peak in daily coronavirus cases. According to a Yelp survey, nine out of every 1,000 businesses in Hawaii have closed, and that’s one of the highest rates in the U.S. Wrote Politico, “For public health experts and Hawaii officials, the state’s worsening outbreak is a stark reminder that this virus will easily exploit gaps in defenses.”

By late November, though, Hawaii was the only U.S. state not to have uncontrolled spread of the virus.

If a person doesn’t take a pre-flight coronavirus test before flying to Hawaii, they’ll still be welcomed as long as they quarantine for two weeks after they arrive. Still, not everybody sounds enthusiastic about the new rules.

“They’re going to come here with this false sense of belief that, ‘Hey, I got tested, Hawaii, I’m clean. Here’s my paperwork. Let me enjoy my Hawaiian vacation,’ not knowing that the person in seat B on a five-hour flight gave them the coronavirus,” state Sen. Glenn Wakai told the Associated Press.

On Oct. 29, it was reported that a tourist flying to Hawaii who had a pending coronavirus test ended up testing positive, potentially exposing everybody on the airplane.

Read more on traveling during the pandemic:

Sources: Politico, Los Angeles Times, Travel & Leisure, Washington Post

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