Travelers from the mainland won’t be able to take advantage of Hawaii’s interisland vaccine passport program that rolls out next week, even if they’re from the state, Gov. David Ige said Monday.
Officials have said people who were fully vaccinated in Hawaii will be allowed to skip the otherwise mandatory COVID-19 test and 10-day quarantine when traveling between islands beginning on May 11.
But Ige said it’s not possible to extend those privileges to Hawaii residents returning home from the mainland if they were vaccinated elsewhere.
“We can’t treat a resident different from someone coming into the state,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight” program.
The state has limited the program for now to people vaccinated in Hawaii because it’s possible to verify their records. Travelers will need to upload vaccination documents to the state’s Safe Travels program.
Two companies, CommonPass and Clear, are working with Hawaii to integrate other states’ vaccination records into a system that can be used to screen travelers. Ige said it could still be “at least a couple weeks” before such a system is ready for Hawaii to use.
Even as more Hawaii residents receive COVID-19 vaccines, Ige did not appear ready to make many changes to pandemic rules the state already has in place.
On Monday, the governor reiterated that he doesn’t have plans to lift mask rules even though federal guidelines on outdoor mask wearing have eased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear face coverings outdoors unless they are at a crowded event.
Ige said it would be difficult to recognize who is vaccinated and who is not, and that the state will maintain its current mask rules until more people are vaccinated.
Ige also believes that the state’s rules are not that far off from the new CDC guidelines.
“Our mandate requires people to wear their mask outside, except if they can maintain 6 feet of physical distancing,” Ige said. “I think it’s just a perspective. When we looked at the changes, we didn’t see that great a change.”
The governor also would not commit to making changes to the City and County of Honolulu’s tiered reopening system that was first implemented under former Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has said he believes that the tier structure is outdated and did not take into account the availability of vaccines at the time it was created. His reasoning is that deaths have stalled and the hospitals have not reached capacity.
“All those models were predicated on public behavior,” Blangiardi told “Spotlight” on Friday. “We’ve now had the benefit of what the vaccines have brought in the way of mitigating acute hospital care and deaths. That’s important to look at as we try to evolve.”
Ige said Monday that the tiered system helped businesses anticipate when government restrictions may be lifted or become more severe. The state government spent months last year tinkering with various iterations of reopening plans before the city implemented the current model in September.
Ige said he doesn’t believe the tier system is outdated, but policies should change as more people get vaccinated. Ige said he is still worried about the elevated number of positive COVID-19 cases in the islands, with an average of 91 new cases per day over the last week.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell