Ige ends some travel restrictions, eyes 70% threshold

Travel restrictions in Hawaii will end when vaccination rates are high enough, Gov. David Ige said Friday, and a new state program provides incentives for that to happen as soon as possible.

At a news conference Friday, Ige said that about 52% of Hawaii residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which he said means the state can safely begin lifting certain travel restrictions.

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“Vaccination is such an important part of keeping our families and communities healthy and safe that I am now making the fully vaccinated rate a major consideration as we make policy decisions here in Hawaii,” he said.

Starting June 15, Ige said all interisland travel restrictions will be lifted.

Regardless of their vaccination status, travelers will once again be allowed to fly between islands without having to take a COVID test or quarantine.

Also on June 15, any trans-Pacific traveler arriving in Hawaii who has received at least one vaccine dose in Hawaii will be exempt from quarantine.

Once the fully vaccinated rate reaches 60% statewide, Ige said the Safe Travels program will begin accepting vaccination cards issued from health care providers anywhere on the mainland.

This will allow any domestic trans-Pacific traveler who has been vaccinated on the mainland to travel to Hawaii without requiring a COVID test beforehand.

Finally, Ige announced that, when the fully vaccinated rate reaches 70% statewide, all travel restrictions will be lifted and the Safe Travels program will be terminated.

Ige said the state will continue to monitor the spread of the virus, and will still take measures such as taking temperatures at airports.

Although he said all of these announcements are subject to change depending on the evolution of the pandemic, Ige said the state’s return to normal depends on as many people in Hawaii getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

To that end, Ige announced HI Got Vaccinated, an initiative to offer rewards for residents who receive vaccinations.

The program, a collaboration between the state government and private organization, allows residents to sign up for deals, discounts and prize giveaways.

By showing their vaccine cards at checkout, vaccinated residents can receive deals or complimentary products at businesses such as Zippy’s, Hilo Coffee Mill, or Ruby Tuesday.

Furthermore, residents 18 and over who have received at least one vaccination dose are eligible for prize giveaways throughout June. The first three prize giveaways are for 100,000 Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles and an Alaska Airlines round trip for two, with the winning names to be drawn June 11, June 18 and June 25.

All other prizes — which include a Las Vegas trip for two, a year’s worth of food from Zippy’s, a dinner for six at Merriman’s and more — will be awarded on July 1.

Within a half-hour of the announcement of the program, the program’s website — higotvaccinated.com — had crashed, and DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said more than 500 people had signed up already.

A full list of prizes and deals is available at higotvaccinated.com, where residents can also sign up for the prize giveaways by providing their name, phone number, email address and address.

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A spokesperson for Ige wrote in an email that the governor is expected to make another emergency announcement next week, although the subject of that announcement is unknown.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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