Headlines this week announced that travel to Hawaii would require a booster, but that’s not necessarily true – even if the Governor says so. Regardless, the announcement hurts struggling tourism businesses.
False Claim: Booster Required For Travel to Hawaii
The headlines were everywhere this week suggesting that not only would travelers need to be fully vaccinated to travel to Hawaii but they would also need a booster shot before coming to the islands, here are some examples:
Hawaii may require travelers have COVID booster shot to be ‘fully vaccinated’ ABC
Hawaii May Require COVID-19 Booster to Skip Quarantine — What to Know Travel & Leisure
Hawaii governor considering Covid boosters as part of state’s travel rules CNN
- Hawaii Travel Update: Mayor Announces Target Date For Booster Shot Requirement Forbes
Proof of Covid Booster Will Soon Be Required to Visit Hawaii Frommers
That last one is perhaps the most egregious written by none other than Pauline Frommer, co-President of FrommerMedia and Editorial Director of eponymous guide books. Why is it egregious? Because it’s flatly not true.
The action that Governor Ige has proposed but not imposed would require those that are eligible for a booster shot to have had one or a negative COVID test within 24 hours of travel to Hawaii to avoid quarantine. Why is that such a huge difference?
Not everyone is eligible for booster doses. There are age restrictions and a booster is not recommended inside of six months from the last shot completing a full inoculation (as advised by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention – CDC.) That’s six months since the first and only Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or six months from a most recent Pfizer vaccine or Moderna in a two-shot vaccine series.
***Note: Commenters have reported that it’s now recommended to get a booster from the J&J one-shot as soon as two months, and five months from the two-shot regimen.***
Those who are ineligible for a booster remain permissible for travel to Hawaii and do not need to quarantine.
Negative COVID-19 test
Any traveler, regardless of vaccination status, can furnish a negative COVID-19 result within 24 hours of beginning travel to the islands. This reflects current international entry requirements for Americans returning to the United States, though international travelers must also have taken one of the COVID-19 vaccines with a valid vaccination record.
Travelers do not need to be vaccinated to travel to Hawaii, nor have their booster to avoid quarantine. Simply presenting a negative result is acceptable for entry AND free movement without quarantine.
Proposed Travel Restrictions Do Not Pertain to Entry
Notice that just Travel & Leisure mentioned the word quarantine. It’s a pretty important caveat since that’s the only part of the rule that “may” change (two points for that as well.)
Even those who have received the COVID vaccines, are eligible but have not received a booster shot remain eligible for entry and even quarantine-free travel with a negative test result.
Not Yet Enacted
While it seems like a foregone conclusion, and Governor Ige has the power to make it official, at the time of publication that had not yet occurred. Yes, it will likely happen, and yes, most of the sources above included the words “may” or “considering”, Forbes and Frommers found the fact that this rule has not actually been implemented was also unnecessary information.
While likely to go into effect sometime around mid-February (sources have the date at February 18th), nothing has officially changed in terms of entry or quarantine requirements at the moment.
Hurts Local Tourism Businesses
This issue came to my attention because a friend of mine owns Big Island Jeep Rental, a local car rental firm that specializes in off-road vehicles on the island of Hawaii. He pointed this issue out to me after numerous articles flooded his feed and cancellations began pouring in.
The proposed requirement itself is not that egregious. The coverage is incredibly damaging. Cancellations for Big Island Jeep Rental and others shared on Facebook is not a result of fully vaccinated travelers refusing to get boosters. In fact, more than 80% of the US is fully vaccinated (this report cites “nearly” but is dated more than 40 days ago since which another nine million have been vaccinated.)
Rather, these cancellations are a result of those who may not be eligible or advised to take the booster at this time.
How Much More Can Hawaii Take?
Business owners that have been vocal online have indicated that yet another shutdown – albeit this one is simply perceived or contrived – could bury their companies. Prior to COVID, Hawaii faced stiff competition and high costs due to its remote nations. With renewed concerns over a Hawaii booster shot entry requirement, false as it may be, is still damaging to businesses that have been through hell the last couple of years, more so than their mainland peers.
As a travel writer, I appreciate the need to get information out quickly and the difficulty in getting it right. I had a significant factual inaccuracy just a couple of weeks ago due to a poor translation in my source. It happens. But these aren’t inaccuracies, most included the correct information somewhere in their articles. Rather, these are intentionally misleading and many do not read this deep into a post. That leads to negative effects for both travelers and providers based on headlines alone and that’s entirely irresponsible.
What do you think? Would you have been misled by those headlines? Is there a duty to be clearer?