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Island to move to Tier 5, resort bubble program ends

LIHU‘E — The county will move into Tier 5 and end its resort bubble program on Thursday.

The county is able to move to Tier 5 because of the state’s projected milestone of 60% fully vaccinated residents.

“As of Thursday, Tier 5 will allow gatherings of up to 75 people outdoors or 25 indoors,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a release. “Restaurants, gyms, buses and attractions will be able to operate at 75% capacity. Once Hawai‘i reaches 70% fully vaccinated, we will move to Tier 6 and eliminate all restrictions.”

Kawakami issued an amended emergency rule that Gov. David Ige approved last week.

The amended emergency rule also ends the county’s resort bubble program Thursday, the same day the state will eliminate its pre-travel testing and quarantine requirement for domestic travelers to Hawai‘i who have been fully vaccinated in the United States.

“The resort bubbles helped keep Kaua‘i safe from community spread of COVID-19 by isolating travelers until they could take a post-arrival test, as recommended by the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention),” Kawakami said. “Now that vaccine exceptions are going into effect and our hotels are near capacity, the program is no longer necessary.”

The resort bubble program was created after Kaua‘i health officials discovered a spike of COVID-19 cases last fall in travelers who had a negative pre-travel test then tested positive days after arriving.

To prevent community spread, the county opted out of the state’s pre-travel-only testing program in December 2020 and implemented the resort bubble program that mandated post-travel testing more than three days after arrival.

The CDC recommends that unvaccinated travelers “get tested with a viral test three to five days after travel and stay home or otherwise self-quarantine for seven days after travel,” even if they test negative before their trip.

Once vaccines became available to all visitor-industry and transportation employees, Kaua‘i health officials endorsed rejoining the state Safe Travels pre-travel-testing program in early April.

“The program allowed travelers to keep their rescheduled vacations to come to Kaua‘i safely without being locked in their rooms, and it enabled participating resorts to stay open during the difficult months of the pandemic,” Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sue Kanoho said in the release.

“Now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated and Kaua‘i has a reputation as one of the safest places in the country, most of our properties have returned to near-capacity.”

Beginning July 8, trans-Pacific travelers to Hawai‘i can receive a quarantine exception by uploading their CDC-issued vaccination record cards to the state’s Safe Travels Program website and having that physical card upon arrival in the state.
Source: The Garden Island

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