Ige: Changes to Safe Travels contingent on vaccination rates

  • MURDOCK

  • IGE

Unrestricted interisland travel could still be months away as COVID-19 cases mount on neighbor islands.

During a Monday news conference, Gov. David Ige said July 4 might be a reasonable date for the state to resume unrestricted interisland travel if the number of virus cases on Oahu and Maui stabilizes before then.

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Ige said that, based on the current distribution of vaccines throughout Hawaii — he said the state’s ratio of vaccinated citizens is among the top 10 in the nation — vaccination rates could be high enough by the summer to make changes to the Safe Travels Hawaii program.

Those changes might include a long-discussed vaccine passport program, which would allow travelers who can prove they have been fully vaccinated to travel to Hawaii without restrictions.

Doug Murdock, chief information officer for Enterprise Technology Services, the company that administers the Safe Travels program, said the biggest stumbling block in implementing a vaccine passport program is the logistics of confirming a traveler’s vaccination status.

Currently, there is no complete database of vaccinated people — and Ige said the White House has specified that no such database will be created on the national level — meaning Enterprise will have to develop a way to integrate the information.

Murdock said Enterprise is working with two other companies, CLEAR and CommonPass, on a pilot program for integrating vaccination data with Safe Travels.

“It’s hard to peg a date, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, by summer, we could have this going and have that as an availability for all the people who want to come to Hawaii,” Murdock said.

If and when the vaccine passport is integrated with Safe Travels, Murdock said it would likely be very simple for travelers to use.

“Everybody will have a code that you’ll copy from (CommonPass’) application and put into our application, and it’ll validate back, and then you’re clear to go,” Murdock said.

Until then, Ige said he has considered the possibility of allowing unrestricted interisland or trans-Pacific travel based purely on the physical vaccination cards handed out after doses are administered, but added that the state’s priority is “shots in arms” above all else.

However, Ige reiterated that the viability of any Safe Travels changes is dependent upon Oahu and Maui getting their respective cases under control. Ige said Oahu is likely to backslide to the more restrictive Tier 2 of its reopening schedule after an uptick in cases on the island.

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On Monday, 95 new COVID cases were reported throughout the state. Of those cases, 53 were on Oahu, 23 on Maui and 14 on the Big Island. Statewide, 1,313 new cases have been reported during the past two weeks.

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

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