Hawaii brings back restrictions as coronavirus cases continue to rise
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Originally, Hawaii had planned to reopen on Aug. 1 to visitors with a valid negative COVID-19 test. That date was pushed back to Sept. 1, where it technically remains today. But, unfortunately, the state is experiencing a new surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, warranting the state to reinstitute some prior restrictions.
On Aug. 6, Governor Ige announced that beginning Aug. 11, the state is bringing back mandatory 14-day quarantines for inter-island travel. While the initial announcement indicated this would apply to all inter-island travel, the official order only impacts those traveling from Oahu to Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao counties.
With the recent increase in cases on the islands, it is unknown if the state will reopen with a negative COVID-19 test on Sept. 1. As it stands, the plan when the state does reopen will require a negative result from an FDA-approved test from a CLIA-certified laboratory taken within 72 hours of arrival will be able to begin enjoying the islands on arrival. The state has said testing won’t be done at the airport.
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As of press time, Hawaii has 2,914 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The highest number of cases, 2,541, are on Oahu. There are 180 cases on Maui; 123 on the Big Island, and 47 on Kauai. An additional 23 residents have been diagnosed with the virus outside the state. There have been 29 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Hawaii.
Will Hawaii push back its reopening date?
With the support of local mayors, Gov. Ige pushed back the date for Hawaii’s reopening of its tourism sector from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1. You can theoretically travel to the islands now, but the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine will remain in effect.
Hawaii may push the reopening date back again as the state is seeing record levels of COVID-19 and recently announced it is on track to fill its limited ICU beds by the end of the month if the trend doesn’t reverse, especially on Oahu.
And, in Hawaii, quarantine really means quarantine. You cannot leave your quarantine location unless you need to seek medical care. You may not visit public spaces, such as a pool, fitness center or restaurant during this period, even within your hotel, if that’s where you’re quarantining. And, you may not have any visitors — unless it’s a healthcare professional.
You might think you could head to Hawaii and skirt the self-quarantine. However, that’s a bad idea for all sorts of reasons. Tourists have been arrested for breaking quarantine early and car rental agencies are banned from renting a vehicle to anyone subject to this mandatory quarantine. Anyone who intentionally or knowingly breaks quarantine can be convicted of a misdemeanor. That could mean a fine up to $5,000 or jail time of up to one year.
Related: Why we love Hawaii
Should I book a trip to Hawaii?
There are two major obstacles for those hoping to get to Hawaii soon: the official date of the state’s reopening of tourism and the ability to get the right type of COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival when that date comes. Both of these issues present very real barriers to pulling off a Hawaiian vacation in the coming months.
If the governor does push back the reopening date again, you’ll have no choice but to either cancel your trip or comply with the mandatory two-week self-quarantine upon arrival.
If the governor doesn’t again push back the state’s reopening date, you may still be thwarted by test availability. Test kits are in short supply in many parts of the U.S. And, there’s a serious lag in reporting test results, which means you could make plans to visit Hawaii, take a COVID-19 test but not receive your results within 72 hours of arrival to the islands. Without negative results, you would be required to self-quarantine.
It’s unclear what would happen if you began the quarantine and then received your negative results. Common sense would say your quarantine period would be canceled, but we have not received clarification from the State of Hawaii on that point.
Register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system
If you decide to travel to the state and adhere to the self-quarantine, you’ll need to register with Hawaii’s Safe Travels system. Do this at least 72 hours before arrival. Although you don’t have to register, it will speed your exit from the airport because you will be asked to show your registration confirmation page.
Once you’re in quarantine, you need to check in on the app daily to report the condition of your health. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the continued use of this app in some form in the future — even after the self-quarantine rule expires.
Flight schedules have been reduced
As you would imagine, the 14-day self-quarantine requirement has done what it was designed to do — convince travelers to stay home and avoid Hawaii in the short term. From May 1 to 18, 2019, some 422,651 visitors and residents arrived in Hawaii by air, according to data provided by the Hawaii Vacation & Convention Bureau (HVCB). In that same period in May 2020, only 10,947 individuals arrived in Hawaii by air.
This decline in passengers led airlines to drop some flights between the mainland and the Hawaiian Islands.
Out of Southwest’s normal 12 daily flights to Hawaii, the carrier has temporarily suspended all but two. You’ll have fewer options to get to Hawaii until the self-quarantine rule expires and visitor volume rebounds enough to convince airlines to add back service.
You’ll have to wear a face mask
On April 17, the governor of Hawaii issued an order requiring face masks in Hawaii.
Many hotels are closed
While some hotels are open, many popular hotels across the islands are currently closed, including some of TPG’s favorites listed below.
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Grand Wailea, Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa and Andaz Maui are accepting reservations for stays beginning Sept. 1. However, some hotels have started to push that date back. For example, the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is now only accepting bookings starting Oct. 1.
Other hotels, like Disney’s Aulani don’t yet have a reopening date on the calendar.
If you’re planning on a visit to Hawaii soon, check and double-check to make sure your resort of choice is open.
Can you eat out?
Restaurants in Hawaii reopened in early June, but local reports noted that customers have been charged “service fees,” so just be prepared for some changes since your last visit. Bars are not open on the islands at this time.
Are attractions and activities open?
Many attractions are closed on the Hawaiian Islands.
On May 6, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks announced the reopening of select state parks and monuments. However, local and state parks on Oahu have now been closed for a second time. This closure is said to last at least until Sept. 5 and will include the beaches within those parks, though swimming, surfing, paddling, diving and fishing in the water are still permitted. This second wave of closures also impacts the city and private pools, as well as tennis courts.
Golf courses can remain open, though will roll back to the phase 1 reopening rules.
Will passengers be tested upon arrival in Hawaii?
That option was discussed during a May 14 Facebook Live hosted by the governor of Hawaii, along with state epidemiologists Dr. Park and Dr. Desmond. This group stated that the rapid COVID-19 tests take from five to 13 minutes to conduct, and weren’t currently a viable solution to use on arriving tourists to Hawaii due to a few limitations in application.
Hawaii typically has 30,000 visitors arrive per day during normal times, which the trio of Hawaii officials stated would be a prohibitive number of tests to conduct given that one machine could only handle about three tests per hour. There were also concerns raised that the test, even if it works perfectly, only gives you a snapshot in time and may not tell you if you were incubating the virus.
For most travelers, now is still not the time to visit Hawaii because of the restrictions in place to stop the spread of coronavirus. Of course, it’s understandably disappointing to miss out on a trip to the islands, but the experience there now wouldn’t be the quintessential one of lazy beach days, mai tais at a pool bar or luaus on the beach.
TPG will follow Hawaii’s path to reopening and let you know as rules relax and visitors are once again welcome to visit the islands.
Additional reporting by Victoria M. Walker and Summer Hull
Featured image courtesy of Timur Alexandrov/EyeEm/Getty Images
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