HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said that changes to include a COVID-19 booster shot to Safe Access Oahu, remain under consideration as Gov. David Ige hints that a coronavirus booster may soon be added to Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.
Gov. Ige has yet to make an official announcement, but on Wednesday, Jan. 19, Blangiardi said there is a target date.
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“The targeted date for that is Feb. 18, we are going to look at that, we are going to look at that very carefully,” Blangiardi said. “I did tell the governor that we would consider moving Safe Access Oahu in tandem, with that, a lot of this is going to depend on the booster level and where we are in the next couple of weeks.”
The majority of Oahu residents have at least one COVID-19 shot, with 84% of residents having initiated their vaccine series, while 78% have gotten their second shot and 32% of residents are boosted.
Currently, dine-in at restaurants, gyms and theaters require proof of two COVID-19 shots or a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours under Safe Access Oahu.
Blangiardi said, “The overriding recommendation is if you are eligible to get a booster, get a booster whether or not we make it part of Safe Access Oahu tied to Feb. 18, is still something we are evaluating.”
Meanwhile, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he favors adding a booster to Safe Travels and more. A statement from Roth said:
“Our administration has fiercely advocated for more robust COVID mitigation measures at our ports of entry since taking office in late 2020. We set a precedent by incorporating the state’s first post-arrival testing program at our airports through much of 2021 and have asked the governor to consider allowing us to reinstate that program through the delta and omicron surges. That said, we agree that ‘up-to-date’ should include an additional shot, if past the recommended window, but would furthermore be in favor of pre-travel testing for all – vaccinated or not. The pandemic has shown us that we can all spread the virus if we aren’t careful, and adequate testing has proven to be an excellent first line of defense for our community.”
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino also responded with a statement in support of a coronavirus booster shot for quarantine exemption for those traveling into the state. Victorino’s statement said:
“Earlier this month, I asked Gov. Ige to consider revising Safe Travels Hawaii to require travelers to show proof of a booster shot. My suggestion came after a November announcement by the Hawaii Department of Health that CDC data demonstrated vaccine immunity weakens over time and booster shots can re-energize immunity. Stronger protection from infection and severe effects are both so important given the highly contagious nature of the omicron variant. I believe that public health benefits from requiring travelers, both visitors and returning residents, to provide proof of a booster shot if they are eligible for one.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 18, Gov. Ige said staffing and software logistics still need to be sorted out before an official announcement is made.
“We were already seeing staffing shortages like many are seeing all across the state,” Ige said. “We have been unable to hire all the people that we need to implement the Safe Travels program so that’s part of it.”
Sheri Kajiwara, the state’s Safe Travels Administrator, said COVID-19 vaccinations — as well as a negative coronavirus test result taken within 72 hours — are exemptions to the state’s quarantine requirement for out-of-state travel.
“If you meet one of those two exemptions, you will not need to quarantine,” Kajiwara said. “If you don’t, you will be required to do the five days.”
Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines and boosters
A spokesperson for Gov. Ige said they hope to share an announcement soon related to Safe Travels.