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‘Safe Travel Cards’ in works

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A family takes it the view from a lookout on the Kilauea Iki trail at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Volcano on Monday.

Quarantine exemptions for some fully vaccinated travelers could begin as early as May 1.

“Safe Travel Cards,” a type of vaccine passport, could be in place for interisland travelers by that date, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said during a livestream Monday.

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Although details are still being finalized, Green, a Big Island physician, said plans for the Safe Travels Card tentatively call for travelers to upload a picture of their vaccine card from the U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention — which are received after getting an inoculation — and to enter the lot number and final vaccination date in a drop-down box.

Vaccine cards will be shown in-person when a traveler arrives, he said.

Behind the scenes, Green said software from companies partnering with the state will work to verify the legitimacy of the vaccination.

“That kind of validation process should be enough for us,” Green said. “We’re debugging it now. What I think will happen is if we do meet our internal deadlines, we’re hopeful that by May 1 we’ll be able to do it for intercounty/interisland travel.

“I’m personally asking if we can possibly do it also for trans-Pacific travel, but it may very well be that the governor and the mayors want to first do it for interisland — which is nice for us as residents — and then a month later, come on board with trans-Pacific travel,” he continued. “Either way, it’s a big win for us because knowing that people are vaccinated is even better than knowing that they got a test within three days of traveling. It’s even more reliable.”

Green’s comments come days after Gov. David Ige signed a 19th emergency proclamation for COVID-19 which, among other measures, mentions a possible new quarantine exception for those who are fully vaccinated.

According to the proclamation, those who provide validation that they have completed a vaccine regimen approved by the state Department of Health will not have to abide by a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

That exception, however, has not yet been established and requires action by the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, according to the proclamation.

Currently, trans-Pacific and interisland travelers arriving on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui can bypass quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test. The test must be performed by a trusted testing partner within 72 hours of departure.

Green said final details about the Safe Travels Card are expected in about a week.

Those who try to defraud the system will face “significant penalties,” he said.

“I don’t want us to have to be the pandemic police or the vaccination cops,” Green said. “I just want people to be honest. I know our people will be honest, but there will be a lot of people traveling from abroad and the mainland who might consider taking advantage.”

However, he estimates that fewer than one in 100 people would attempt to fake a vaccine card, and of those individuals, one in 1,200 would be positive for COVID-19, meaning one in 120,000 people would fake a vaccine card and be positive for COVID-19.

“So it will not affect us from a … public health standpoint, but we still don’t want people breaking rules.”

Green said this kind of vaccine verification process could be used more broadly for large events like marathons and concerts.

“I think we want to be fair to people,” Green said. “If they don’t want to be vaccinated, we should still let them do a rapid test beforehand and also be cleared, but we could bring large events back.”

That could include activities like the Ironman World Championship in West Hawaii and conventions.

“So if we have the ability to show that our 75% or 80% of people were vaccinated, it would be easier for us to take kind of the handcuffs off of our own population and let people have big events that the mayors could much more easily and in a safe way open up for,” Green said.

But by July 4, Green said Hawaii will have “so much immunity and vaccination done,” he won’t be too worried.

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“However, wouldn’t it be nice to know that if someone was holding a 2,000-person conference for the dentists of America or something, that we knew all those dentists were vaccinated and came in and it was not a big deal when they went and stayed at a hotel or at the convention center?”

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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