Hawaii’s governor has pleaded with tourists not to travel to the islands as the state struggles to control Covid-19 amid the growing spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
It’s “a risky time to be traveling right now,” David Ige warned on Monday, asking visitors and residents to reduce travel to essential business. “I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii. It’s not a good time to travel to the islands,” he said.
Covid-19 cases in Hawaii have risen 36% in the last two weeks while hospitalizations are up 78%, according to New York Times data.
In addition to urging tourists to stay away, the governor said restaurant capacity had been restricted and there was limited access to rental cars. But Ige stopped short of banning non-residents from the islands, arguing the situation was different now than last year, when strict travel rules that required quarantining essentially shut down Hawaii’s tourism industry.
“Last year in March, when I first asked for visitors to postpone travel to the islands, we saw a 60% reduction in the traffic to Hawaii,” Ige said. “And then, certainly, ordering the mandatory quarantine of all incoming visitors reduced travel to the islands by 99.5%, essentially 100% of travelers.”
Tourists have returned to the islands as vaccines are widely available and with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying fully vaccinated people can travel domestically.
The governor also urged people to get vaccinated. In Hawaii, 62% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to state data.
Ige said he supported the recent Covid restrictions enacted by the Honolulu mayor, Rick Blangiardi. The mayor announced that rules taking effect on Wednesday would restrict indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25. Those rules will apply to weddings and other events.
When you’re looking at how transmissible Delta is, we really got to control these large gatherings,” said Hiro Toiya, Honolulu’s emergency management director. “The status quo is not working, and it’s not acceptable.”
Multiple hospitals on the island of Oahu, where Honolulu is located, have filled their regular beds as Covid patients pour into emergency rooms. Honolulu set up a 25-cot tent outside the Queen’s medical center – West Oahu on Friday to help handle the influx.