HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii has some of the strictest travel guidelines in the country, and for now, it is staying that way.
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In a one-on-one interview, Governor David Ige said he will not be making any decisions to ease travel restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 just yet.
While a program for those who are vaccinated would drastically help business within the state, the governor said he wants to be sure that the first isn’t spreading. He is waiting for guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before making any decisions.
“At this point, you know, we are waiting for the science,” Governor David Ige said. “What we don’t know and what we’re asking the scientists to answer is, if you get vaccinated, can you still carry the virus actively and can you infect someone else?”
While there is no timeline yet, the state is getting ready to go and is already working with two companies that would verify vaccinated travelers.
“They are trying to tie into various databases and ultimately health records if they could, that would allow us to verify that if you said you did receive both doses of vaccinations that we can verify that,” Governor Ige explained.
Governor Ige said the program would be like a health passport.
“We do hope that getting vaccinated would mean that it would be easier for people to travel,” the governor said. “The fact that we have safe and effective vaccines really is a game changer.”
Although the vaccines are a game changer in the state’s fight against COVID-19, there are some hurdles.
Governor Ige said he wishes the state would receive more doses.
“We have been getting 30,000 to 40,000 doses a week, and we are clearly prepared to to administer 70,000 next week if we could get it,” he said.
However, getting the vaccines is the problem, so the governor is working with the Biden Administration.
Governor Ige added that if Hawaii could get triple the amount of vaccines, the state could handle it.
“The most important thing [the Biden Administration] can do to help with vaccine distribution is give us more lead time and give us more vaccine,” Governor Ige explained.
Even if the federal government gives Hawaii double the number of vaccines, Governor Ige said it would still take until the end of summer to vaccinate 70% of the local population.
In addition to the vaccine distribution, the governor is also dealing with a massive budget shortfall due to the pandemic.
“We do still see a need for furloughs just because of the size of the deficit,” Governor Ige told KHON2’s Lauren Day.
“I think the only way to avoid furloughs is if the federal government really does come to another CARES package, and they give us significant sums of money that we would have flexibility on how we utilize it,” the Governor said.
For now, Governor Ige says he is hopeful the vaccines represent the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I know that people are still struggling economically and many continue to be out of work, but with the vaccines and the change in administration, I do see good opportunities ahead for our community,” Governor Ige said.