As tortured and as controversial as Covid-19 safety measures have been across some parts of the United States, the rules for Hawaii have been even more intense—by necessity.
From the very start of the pandemic, the stakes for Hawaii were higher than for other parts of the U.S. With no ability to transport patients easily across state lines to other hospitals, officials in Hawaii knew that in order to succeed in the fight against the novel coronavirus, they'd have to prevent the state's medical system from becoming overwhelmed.
That existential threat could only be mitigated through draconian measures aimed at would-be tourists who might bring Covid to Hawaiian shores. That meant arresting visitors who flouted quarantine rules, enforcing a rigorous requirement for multiple tests, and allowing islands to choose even tougher entry regulations for themselves.
Although the island of Kauai temporarily opted for tighter rules and mandated quarantine for everyone, now all Hawaiian islands are on the same page, using negative virus tests as an alternative to isolation.
The burdensome rules stifled tourism to the Aloha State.
Now that the vaccines are here, Hawaii is still forging its own path and laying down rules that no other U.S. state has issued.
Gov. David Ige signed a proclamation that lays the ground rules for future tourism: Visitors may bypass Hawaii's mandatory quarantine requirement by uploading proof of Covid-19 vaccination to the state's Safe Travels Program or by showing the documentation to officials.
The edict must still obtain final clearance from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, but that's expected to be a sure thing because that agency is helping to craft the policy.
State officials are also working with several companies to build a digital platform that can easily store proof of vaccination for arriving travelers.
Even though Hawaii is an American state, the regulation would bring its policy in line with a growing list of nations around the world that have already announced that vaccinated travelers may be admitted without quarantining.
Until Hawaii's plan earns final approval and achieves implementation, though, the rules for entering the state remain unchanged: Each visitor must have a fresh Covid-19 test in hand before departing the mainland U.S. in order to bypass Hawaii's 10-day quarantine period.
By this summer, it's expected that vaccinated travelers will be able to enter the Aloha State as normal, without isolation. But visitors who cannot show proof of vaccination will likely still be forced to quarantine unless they can provide proof of negative Covid-19 test results.
The federal government is not requiring citizens to be vaccinated, nor has it issued any rules about requiring anyone to carry proof of vaccination.
But this is just one more sign that for their own safety, local governments and businesses around the world, including cruise lines and now the state of Hawaii, will pave a smoother path for visitors who can prove they have received a vaccine.