Kokua Line: Will new federal rules change Safe Travels Hawaii?
Question: Will Gov. Ige modify Hawaii’s Safe Travels program to align with the new U.S. rules for international air travel that are expected to be rolled out in November? Specifically, will Hawaii begin to accept any WHO-authorized vaccine for the vaccine exemption to avoid quarantine upon entering Hawaii? Will Hawaii broaden the testing alternative to align with whatever the U.S. government approves? Currently, only negative tests from Trusted Testing and Travel Partners are accepted by Hawaii, and it has to be a certain kind of test.
Answer: “The federal government has not yet provided detailed information on how the air travel plan is going to work. Until the states receive that detailed information, we cannot say what impact, if any, it would have on Safe Travels or general travel to the state of Hawaii. If modifications to Hawaii’s Safe Travels program are made, there will be an announcement before the changes take effect,” Jodi Leong, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige, said Thursday in an emailed response to your question.
The Biden administration announced Sept. 20 that it would ease international air travel to the United States in November. Country-specific restrictions would be lifted; adult foreign nationals would be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be tested for the disease before boarding their U.S.-bound flight; and any COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization would be accepted, according to Associated Press reports at the time. Many other details, including about enforcement, were not released.
Hawaii is unique among U.S. states in that it requires arriving airline passengers, domestic or international, to self-quarantine for 10 days unless they have an exemption or exception; the program is called Safe Travels Hawaii (travel.hawaii.gov). The program’s vaccine exception does not extend to international arrivals. Its negative-test exception does, but only for a few countries.
The vaccine exception is limited to domestic travelers vaccinated in U.S. states and territories with a U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson), according to Hawaii’s COVID-19 portal.
The negative-test exception is available to domestic passengers and passengers arriving directly from Japan, Canada, Korea, the Philippines, Tahiti and Taiwan, regardless of vaccination status. They must provide an acceptable, negative COVID-19 test before boarding their Hawaii-bound flight. Travelers flying directly to Hawaii from other international destinations cannot bypass quarantine through testing, the portal says.
As you noted, for those passengers who are eligible, only certain tests from approved providers obtained within 72 hours of departure are accepted; see details at hawaiicovid19.com/travel.
Q: When COVID-19 hit and the Labor Department was overwhelmed with unemployment claims, they said they were going to upgrade their computer system. Did they ever do that?
A: Improvements are underway but are not expected to be completed until October 2022, about 2-1/2 years after Hawaii’s pandemic-era layoffs began.
Since federal jobless aid ended, some people out of work for most of the pandemic have been submitting unemployment insurance claims for naught. They’re not eligible because they haven’t earned enough money in recent months to qualify for a new initial claim after extended benefits expired. Eligibility for regular unemployment compensation is based on reported earnings from recent work, not on financial need, Anne Perreira-Eustaqio, the labor department’s director, said Wednesday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” livestream show.
She directed people to an online tool that can help them assess eligibility before filing a claim. The website huiclaims.hawaii.gov is where eligible claimants go to file. Near the bottom of the page, under Unemployment Information for claimants, there’s a link to the Benefits Estimator. Users can input their approximate gross quarterly earnings for the most recent five quarters to generate an estimate of unemployment compensation they would receive.
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email [email protected]