Monday, March 04, 2024|
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Kingston Akuna prepares to take a COVID-19 saliva test Monday during testing at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo.
Gov. David Ige has no plans to end the Safe Travels program, but is considering adding more options for users.
During a livestreamed interview Monday, Ige said that he anticipates Safe Travels will remain in place for domestic flights “as long as there are those traveling who are not vaccinated.”
Currently, people who refuse to submit proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test taken 72 hours before arrival in Hawaii are required to quarantine for 10 days, but Ige said about 20% of passengers to the state do not take those steps.
Ige said he was working on ways to incorporate additional medical options into the program. For example, he said that as more people get booster shots to maintain immunity against COVID-19, he hopes to update Safe Travels to include that information.
“I do believe that our community, those who are already vaccinated, are anxious to get the booster,” Ige said, although he added that he has not yet received the booster himself. “All of us understand that it’s not only about keeping ourselves safe. The booster will help keep our family members safe.”
Ige said he is also adopting guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizing that antigen tests — a more rapid form of COVID-19 test — are more accurate than previously believed, so the state is exploring ways to allow Safe Travels users to submit to an antigen test instead of the slower PCR tests.
Such measures could increase the number of travelers coming to the state.
That number already is expected to balloon in November after Ige made a statement last week inviting visitors back to Hawaii. In August, he asked visitors to avoid any nonessential travel to the state to help curb a spike in cases.
“We expect a strong winter season for our visitor industry,” Ige said. “But we’re trying to be thoughtful in how we relax our restrictions … and slowly expand capacity.”
Meanwhile, the state is expected to receive 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine intended for children ages 5-11.
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and CDC approve use of the vaccine for children — which is expected to happen early next month — then Ige said the child-sized doses could be available in Hawaii as early as Nov. 8.
According to the state Department of Health, there are nearly 120,000 children who would be eligible for the vaccine if it becomes available. The smaller-sized doses could be stored in a normal refrigerator, Ige said, and would be administered to patients in two doses three weeks apart.
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