A new Senate bill unveiled last week aims to let the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) restore funding for the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s (HDOT) Safer Ride program. The Safe Ride program, which was launched in 2005, provides free taxi and shuttle services for travelers with special needs.
As I mentioned in my post on Hawaii’s Safe Travels Program, the program is set to expire in 2023, and will not likely be extended. Along with the expiration of the program, there is no obvious solution to lift the ban on U.S. military personnel traveling to Hawaii.
Did you know you can obtain an emergency travel insurance policy to protect yourself and your family should you need to leave your home in a hurry? The Hawaii State Department of Transportation (HWDOT) is planning to continue the Hawaii Safetravels program in 2023, just as it has since the program’s inception in 2007.. Read more about is hawaii open and let us know what you think.
Governor David Ige of Hawaii has been chastised for insisting on keeping the state’s Safe Travels program in place until at least 70% of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Because COVID-19 vaccines aren’t authorized for use in children under the age of 12, that figure is closer to 82 percent of residents who are eligible for immunization.
Even if those vaccine numbers are met, two Hawaii epidemiologists think that it will not be enough to halt the spread of the extremely contagious Delta strain. They believe the state should extend the Safe Travels program, which has become the country’s strictest set of passenger entrance criteria.
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Dr. Tim Brown, an infectious disease modeler and senior fellow at the East-West Center, told the Honolulu Star Advertiser, “I don’t think that’s a safe benchmark anymore.” “It would have probably been a safe baseline for the virus last year. At that time, it was essentially low enough. The issue is that the more contagious a virus is, the more protection is required to achieve so-called herd immunity.”
Dr. DeWolfe Miller, retired professor at the University of Hawaii and member of the American College of Epidemiology, agrees. In fact, if it were up to Drs. Brown and Miller, no one who hasn’t been completely vaccinated would be permitted to board an aircraft headed for Hawaii, despite the fact that states aren’t authorized to make such demands.
Miller said, “We ought to make every effort to squash this right now or we’re simply playing Russian roulette.” “I don’t believe I’ve ever been so worried as I am right now. 100% vaccination is the safest and most conservative policy—not it’s epidemiological, it’s plain sense. Everything else (in terms of public safety measures) is simply a workaround.”
Because of the prevalence of the virus’ highly transmissible Delta form, which is being blamed for the increasing number of cases in Hawaii and the United States mainland, epidemiologists believe the COVID-19 landscape in America has altered. Since the busy Fourth of July weekend, case numbers on the islands have risen dramatically, with Saturday marking the eleventh straight day with new case counts in the triple digits.
Hawaii’s Governor, David Ige. (Photo courtesy of Governor David Y. Ige on Flickr)
This week, the seven-day average of new cases went vertical, according to Brown. “Most of the rest of the United States is also going vertical.”
The fact that the state’s immunization rates have dropped dramatically in recent months isn’t helping matters. According to the most recent statistics from the Department of Health, 59.6 percent of Hawaiians have been completely vaccinated.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, a physician who also works in an emergency department, shares the scientists’ worries. He estimated that out-of-state travel was involved in around 22% of the new COVID-19 cases that emerged in Hawaii this month.
“Safe Travels is quite likely to be maintained in place for the remainder of the year since it has successfully kept our travel-related cases down,” Green added. He thinks that regulations should be tightened, particularly for returning residents who choose for quarantine rather than testing or vaccination.
“Everyone should get vaccinated or at least obtain the pre-test if traveling,” he recommended. Because the danger of contracting Delta is so great, you should not travel right now if you haven’t been vaccinated. The viral load in those with the Delta variation may be 1,000 times higher.”
PHOTO: Hawaii’s Big Island’s Kona Coast. (Photo courtesy of Jim Byers)
Critics who worry that Hawaii may lose visitors to other locations are upset that the state has kept its travel restrictions in place while other areas of the country have removed them. Miller, on the other hand, contends that the Aloha State has every right to be more restricted due to its distant position and limited resources.
“We’re out in the middle of the ocean, 5,000 miles out. “Only a tiny number of people arrive by boat, but the majority arrive by air,” he said. “There is nothing you can do about your boundaries if you live in Wyoming—there is just too much space.”
Despite the ongoing entrance restrictions, tourist arrivals in Hawaii are now approaching or exceeding pre-pandemic levels. According to Hawaii’s Department of Defense, which informed the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the state spent $10 million on the program in the first half of 2023 and that expenses are averaging $3.1 million monthly as tourist numbers rise, the Safe Travels program isn’t cheap to keep up and running.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Hawaii change their travel restrictions?
Hawaii has not announced any changes to their travel restrictions.
Is Hawaii safe to visit 2023?
Hawaii is a beautiful place and it is safe to visit in 2023.
Is travel to Hawaii Open?
Yes, Hawaii is open for travel.
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