People are still flocking to Hawaii despite delta variant surge

Aug 4, 2021

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COVID-19 cases are rising worldwide in part because of the highly transmissible delta variant. According to a New York Times tracker, the popular destination of Hawaii has seen an uptick in newly reported cases of the coronavirus, as well as hospitalizations and deaths. According to the Times, there is an average of 359 daily cases in the state.

That doesn’t appear to be putting much of a damper on travel, especially to Hawaii. The state has seen a massive boost in travel since lifting rigorous pre-travel testing requirements. Just this month, more than 110,000 travelers have been screened in the state’s Safe Travels program, and more than 5 million have visited this year.

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“Right now, there’s no sign in the high-frequency data that we’re tracking of a market slowdown of any kind associated with delta,” said Carl Bonham from the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization, who spoke at House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness.

“There has been a jump in people searching for COVID on Google, but mobility data has not retraced; it has not gone down,” Bonham said, according to Hawaii Public Radio. “People are not going to restaurants less, at least according to OpenTable data. There’s been no sudden drop off in activity.”

Hawaii lifted several travel restrictions, which has likely made it easier for tourists to visit even with the delta variant’s surge. Vaccinated travelers are required to upload vaccination and/or testing documentation online before traveling but are no longer required to quarantine or submit to pre-travel testing. This ostensibly makes the travel far easier and quicker for those who are vaccinated against the coronavirus. TPG’s senior news editor Clint Henderson recently detailed his “easy, breezy, beautiful” travel experience to Hawaii while vaccinated.

But there are signs that Hawaii — even as it welcomes visitors — is feeling the effects of the delta variant.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami cautioned residents against traveling to Las Vegas and said the city was the “biggest hot spot” for bringing COVID-19 to the island. A health official said a spike in positive cases was traced to travel to Las Vegas. The state also warned that it was concerned about staffing capacity at its hospitals. And Honolulu cautioned that the city was at a “crossroad” and said it was considering requiring employees to be fully vaccinated or be subject to weekly testing.

“The prevalence and the aggressively infectious nature of the virus and its variant throughout our community has become very concerning,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said on July 30. “People who are being infected include those who are fully vaccinated, and more and more of our children are getting sick as well.”

Featured photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

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