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Interisland Travel Now Unrestricted

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

For the first time in months, there are no Safe Travels screeners greeting arrivals to the Molokai Airport. Travelers may come and go interisland freely without going through a litany of testing, quarantine procedures, forms, QR codes and other protocols, as of June 15. The ending of regulations for travel within Hawaii marks one of several to the Emergency Revised Rules the governor made last week.

Individuals who have been fully vaccinated in the state of Hawaii are also no longer required to do a pre-travel test when traveling from the U.S. mainland. However, visitors from the continental U.S. who have been vaccinated in mainland states are still required to present a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering Hawaii until 60 percent of individuals in Hawaii are vaccinated, according to Gov. David Ige. Once Hawaii reaches that statewide vaccination benchmark, which the Governor said he expects sometime in July, Hawaii will begin accepting vaccination cards for domestic travelers.

Once 70 percent of individuals in the state are vaccination, Gov. Ige said he will drop all travel restrictions and the Safe Travels program will end.

Additionally last week, the allowable limit to indoor social gatherings is now 25 and outdoor social gatherings increased to 75, restaurants may now operate until midnight, and up to 200 people can now attend outdoor sporting events.

Molokai has logged no new cases since May 26, as of Sunday.

Last week, another COVID-19 variant, B.1.617.2 — known as the Delta variant — was confirmed as present in Hawaii. This strain of COVID-19 was first detected in India, where the virus sparked a public health crisis in April and May. The Delta variant now makes up approximately six percent of all cases in the U.S., according to the state Dept. of Health.

The variant was detected in an Oahu resident, who traveled to Nevada in early May; the Delta variant was reported in Nevada in May. The person was fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to travel and had a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the mainland. The DOH says the person developed mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19 several days after returning to Hawaii and tested positive for COVID. The individual was isolated and household and close contacts were quarantined, and to date, there is no evidence of household transmission or secondary cases, according to the DOH.

“Early evidence suggests the Delta variant might spread more quickly than other SARS-CoV-2 strains,” said State Laboratories Division Administrator Edward Desmond. “There are reports the Delta variant produces a higher rate of severe illness than original COVID-19, but we do not yet have enough evidence to support that conclusion.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorizes the Delta variant as a variant of concern. DOH is working with other states and the CDC to learn more about the characteristics of the Delta variant. Experts say COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. do offer protection from most variants.

“The vaccines not only help protect against infection, they protect against severe illness,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “While this is one of those very rare breakthrough cases in which the vaccine did not prevent infection, the infected person did not suffer severe illness.”

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