After months of vacillating about traveling to Hawaii or staying away from the islands, Gov. David Ige is once again rolling out the welcome mat.
Ige on Tuesday said the state has made enough progress in slowing the coronavirus pandemic that non-essential travel is once again being encouraged.
“Beginning November 1, we want to invite and encourage fully vaccinated visitors and residents to travel for business or leisure trans-Pacific and inter-island,” Ige said, according to Hawaii News Now.
“Our health care system has responded, and it feels like we do have the ability to move forward with economic recovery,” he added. “It is now safe for fully vaccinated residents and visitors to resume non-essential travel to and within the state of Hawaii.”
Ige and state health officials had gone back and forth throughout the pandemic on whether visitors to the islands was a good idea. After welcoming them back in the spring, the emergence of the Delta variant in the summer caused Ige to retreat.
In August, the governor requested that visitors stay away from Hawaii until the state could get the spread under control. That moment has finally arrived, in his view.
“I think we are all encouraged by what we’ve seen over the last several weeks with the continuing trend of lower case counts,” Ige said, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Our hospitals are doing better, and we have fewer COVID patients in them. Most importantly, our health care system has responded, and we have the ability to move forward with economic recovery.”
The announcement was welcome news to the travel industry.
“The sooner that we can get word out that we are officially welcoming people back from the governor of the state, the better off we are going to be,” said Mufi Hannermann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.
While Ige’s command in August for people to stay away was simply a request, the travel industry did experience down months in August and September, Hannermann said.
“While we recognize that there are still details that need to be sorted out — paying special mind to input from the county mayors and information provided by the health care community and the business sector — this announcement is an important first step toward getting our economy moving again safely and judiciously,” Hannemann said.
Hawaii’s coronavirus case numbers have been dropping significantly since late August. It peaked on Aug. 29 with 1,658 new cases that day. The most recent seven-day average is 123 new cases per day.
Since the pandemic began, there have been slightly more than 80,000 cases in the state and 873 deaths. “We appreciate the government’s public safety efforts, and as we move forward, there needs to be a common sense balance between community health and economic stability,” Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, told the Star-Advertiser. “Our citizens have made considerable sacrifices, so let’s continue to find ways to come up with workable solutions to prevent future restrictions.”