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Hawaii Governor to Tourists: Stay Away from Us Right Now

In a news conference Monday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige delivered a nearly unprecedented message for an American governor: Do not visit us.

"I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii," Ige said. "It's not a good time to travel to the islands." 

Hawaii has seen a recent boom in Covid-19 cases—nearly 9,400 in two weeks, many on the principal tourist island of Oahu—and hospitals cannot handle additional emergencies.

"We are seeing more Covid patients in our hospitals and the ICUs are filling up," Ige said. "We know that we need to take action now in order to reduce the spread of Covid and ensure that our hospitals are not overrun." 

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Ige's entreaty to limit travel to "essential business activities only" applies to tourists as well as residents, regardless of vaccination status. 

Dr. Elizabeth Char, the head of the state's Department of Health, blamed the surge on "residents flying to hotspot areas abroad and bringing Covid back into their households and community."

Unlike places in the mainland United States, Hawaii, which is more than 2,000 miles west of California, does not have the luxury of being able to easily send overflow patients to nearby hospitals.

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"If things do not change, our health care systems will be crippled," Char said.

As Ige pointed out, Hawaii's restaurant capacity and rental cars are already restricted. Visitors who do choose to visit the state "will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit," said Ige.

He suggested that visitors may begin to trickle back by late October.

The full, 53-minute press conference is embedded below.

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