Kauai wants to rejoin Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, ending the need for out-of-state visitors to go through extra hoops before visiting the island.
On March 2, Kauai Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami sent Emergency Rule 25 to Hawaii Gov. David Ige for approval. Under the proposal, Kauai would adopt the pre-travel testing program used by the rest of the state and stop requiring transpacific travelers to stay in resort bubbles or spend time on other Hawaiian islands in order to avoid quarantine.
If approved, the proposal will go into effect on April 5.
Kawakami’s newfound comfort with the Safe Travels program is linked to Kauai’s COVID-19 vaccination program, which has so far administered more than 24,000 vaccine doses to the island’s residents.
“Kauai remains one of the safest places in the United States throughout the pandemic, thanks to the efforts of our community-minded residents and health-focused travel restrictions,” Kawakami said in a statement. “Over the past few months our community’s efforts have allowed us this opportunity to safely rejoin the state’s Safe Travels program.”
Kawakami noted that COVID-19 cases are stabilizing in Hawaii and across the U.S. and said local hospitals have sufficient ICU capacity, COVID tests and treatment options to handle any future infection surges. He also said hospitality and food service workers should be offered vaccines by April.
Hawaii lawmakers were already working on legislation to unify Hawaii’s COVID-related travel rules before Kawakami’s announcement. House Bill 1286, introduced in February, claims that the state’s current “patchwork of requirements” is difficult for visitors to navigate and compounds “the economic impact of the pandemic on the state.”
The Safe Travels program, which began in mid-October, allows transpacific visitors to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine by obtaining a negative COVID-19 test result from a trusted testing partner within 72 hours of departure. The initiative has been a boon to the state’s tourism industry, with transpacific arrivals steadily increasing since it was enacted.
However, Kauai opted out of the program on Dec. 2. and began requiring all travelers to quarantine for 10 days. As a result, the island hasn’t experienced the same tourism boost that the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii have.
Kawakami said Kauai’s re-entry into the Safe Travels program will provide “much needed relief for many of these businesses that have been making sacrifices.” He also said the island’s tourism numbers should bounce back quickly because it is a “premiere destination.”