Hawaii officials are moving forward with a plan to allow fully vaccinated Hawaii-bound travelers to avoid quarantine and COVID-19 testing, and are poised to launch a pilot version for interisland travelers as soon as next month, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Monday.

The Hawaii Safe Travels pass is the latest addition to a list of quarantine exemptions allowed by the state. To qualify, travelers will be asked to upload valid vaccination documents to the already mandatory travel and health form online via the Hawaii Safe Travels program.

The other quarantine bypass option is to take a COVID-19 test and upload negative results before traveling.

“We’re literally in the middle of decision-making on the details,” Green told Civil Beat. “This is just to augment what is already a fairly restrictive travel program into Hawaii. If people don’t want to be vaccinated or not use it, that’s OK, they have other options they can do — the pretest or obviously quarantine.”

Hawaii Lt. Govenor Josh Green holds a sign detailing traveler safety guidelines during a media briefing Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2020 in Honolulu, HI. The briefing was held to unveil new COVID-19 safety measures the state plans to implement upon opening to travelers on October 15th. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Hawaii Lt. Governor Josh Green said details of a new COVID-19 vaccine travel pass are still being finalized by county and state government officials. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

More information could be released later this week, he said. A meeting including Green, Gov. David Ige, mayors and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is scheduled for Wednesday.

Last week, Ige took the first step to pave the way for such a vaccine exemption in his 19th emergency proclamation, which stated that the plan must be approved by the director of the HI-EMA.

A spokesman for Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the state’s adjutant general and HI-EMA director, said Hara would not be available for an interview Monday but would have more details Wednesday.

Green expects the program will begin for interisland travelers on May 1.

“It looks to me like we’ll start with interisland travel, we’ll make sure it works seamlessly, and then we’ll open up the program to mainland travel so we are confident that people aren’t trying to make false cards or any of that nonsense,” he said. “It’s a pretty heavy penalty if you falsify federal documents, so we’re going to make that clear when we roll out the program.”

Hawaii Quarantine Exceptions For Travelers

Verification documents will likely include a picture of the traveler’s vaccine card, which will be requested in advance. Travelers will also be asked to provide other information in the Hawaii Safe Travels online portal, such as the date they finished their vaccinations. When they arrive, they’ll be asked to show their vaccination cards in person. These are tentative plans, Green said.

Vaccines are not considered fully effective until two weeks after the final dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna require two doses three to four weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

Participants will qualify for the quarantine exemption two weeks after their final vaccine dose.

Children will likely have to continue to take a COVID-19 test before travel until vaccine eligibility expands to younger age groups, Green said.

The state is also working with companies such as First Vitals, CommonPass and Clear’s Health Pass to verify vaccine information, he said.

Those airport security screening companies will be able to do a “significant amount of verification in vaccine databases,” he said. “It’ll be the personal attestation, a physical checking of the card but also some digital verification through software.”

It’s possible the program could be expanded to allow events such as concerts, marathons and conventions, he said.

Hawaii has administered more than 954,000 doses as of Monday, according to the Department of Health.

Green estimated 1.2 million doses will be delivered by May and 1.5 million shots in arms will be given by June. The vaccine exemption program is designed to coincide with the state’s vaccine rollout, he said.

“It becomes kind of a no-brainer that we go this way,” Green said.

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