Hawaii has eliminated a step in its Safe Travels program for screening incoming arrivals to the Islands and also shortened the quarantine period for arriving travelers who do not receive an exemption.
Travelers to Hawaii will no longer need to complete a health questionnaire on the Safe Travels platform within 24 hours of their departure. Additionally, the mandatory quarantine period has been reduced from 10 to five days for domestic U.S. travelers, according to a notice from the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA).
Previously, those entering the state had to fill out the health questionnaire to receive a QR code that linked to their provided information and could reduce processing times at the airport. Now, travelers will receive the QR code via email once they submit their trip information -- dates of travel, where they'll be staying, contact info -- in the Safe Travels platform, and it will be sent a second time via email one day prior to their scheduled departure.
According to a statement from an HTA spokesperson, the Safe Travels working group, which includes Hawaii's National Guard, airports, health department, HTA and others, "determined that the questionnaire was not a priority at this point in the pandemic in detecting travelers who are Covid-positive."
The questionnaire, the spokesperson said, was also one of the areas of the Safe Travels process that generated the most questions and requests for assistance from travelers.
The updated regulations both streamline the entry process and bring the Safe Travel protocols in line with the most recent guidance from the CDC and the state's Department of Health.
Under Safe Travels, all those entering the Islands from the U.S. mainland must test for Covid-19 shortly before arrival, present proof of full vaccination or submit to a self-quarantine period.
As for the quarantine period, the new Safe Travels guidance is now in line Hawaii's Health Department, which announced the same changes to its isolation and quarantine period at the end of December to align. The change is in line with the most recent advice from the CDC.
"We are adopting the CDC recommendations as one part of our effort to blunt the current very rapid spread of the omicron variant. These guidelines are practical to implement, making it easier for people to do the right thing," state epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said in a statement. "We should all anticipate that guidance may continue to evolve in the coming weeks as we learn more."
Travelers who are Covid-19 positive are also required to isolate for at least five days or until symptoms are gone and continue to wear a mask for five days after isolation. If the traveler remains symptomatic on the fifth day, they are advised to seek medical attention and quarantine until a Covid-19 test can be taken. If that test is positive, they must isolate for five more days.
Hawaii's Covid-19 cases have spiked as the omicron variant has spread throughout Hawaii, with the Islands recording daily cases in the final days of 2021 that more than doubled previous daily records.
From Dec. 28 to Jan. 3, according to health department data, the average daily case count was 2,669 and the test positivity rate was roughly 18%, both pandemic highs for the Aloha State.