Updated: November 24, 2022
Governor David Ige today called upon Hawaiʻi residents and visitors to delay non-essential travel through the end of October 2021 due to the recent, accelerated surge in COVID-19 cases that he said is now burdening the state’s health care facilities and resources.
“We do believe that would be best for our community right at this point in time. We know that that will have an impact on economic recovery, but the health condition of our community requires us to take action,” said Gov Ige during a media briefing on Monday afternoon.
“I am certainly aware that many of our businesses are currently struggling. I do know that when we reimposed the restrictions on restaurants to 50% capacity, I heard from many restaurants about the challenges that that would present. And certainly our call to reduce travel to the islands to only essential businesses will have an impact on the numbers who come here,” he said.
“Restaurant capacity has been restricted, there is limited access to rental cars, and we know that the visitors who chose to come to the islands will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit Hawaiʻi,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Ige added, “It will take six to seven weeks to see significant change in the number of COVID cases. It is a risky time to be traveling right now. Everyone, residents and visitors alike, should reduce travel to essential business activities only.”
Gov. Ige said that last year in March when he first asked for visitors to postpone travel to the islands, Hawaiʻi saw a 60% reduction in traffic to the state. “And then certainly ordering the mandatory quarantine of all incoming visitors reduced travel to the islands by 99.5%–essentially 100% of travelers,” he said.
He said the situation that we are in today is different with the availability of vaccines. Hawaiʻi currently has about 62% of people fully vaccinated, he said. “We have been monitoring travel to the islands and we do see a reduction in travel to the islands of about 14% already. We are hoping to see a larger reduction in travel to the islands as we proceed during this time,” said Gov. Ige.
John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, noted that even though visitor arrivals overall are already starting to decline, as is historically the case in the fall, visitors should consider postponing their travels to Hawaiʻi.
“Our community, residents and the visitor industry, are responsible for working together to address this crisis,” De Fries said. “As such, we are strongly advising visitors that now is not the right time to travel, and they should postpone their trips through the end of October.”
Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the Department of Health, emphasized the urgency of the current situation saying, “If things do not change, our health care systems will be crippled and those needing medical care for all types of diseases, injuries and conditions, including our visitors, may find it difficult to get the treatment they need right away.”
“I think we’re seeing single digits on travel related cases, but that’s the percentage and we know our overall numbers are so high that it’s kind of dwarfing that. All that really tells us is that yes, we have cases related to travel,” she said, noting that the vast majority of cases right now are related to widespread community transmission.