Hawaii's Governor Asks Tourists to Avoid Islands Until at Least November Amid COVID Spike

Hawaii's governor is asking for tourists to avoid traveling to the islands until at least November as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads through the state, causing a spike in coronavirus cases.

On Monday, Governor David Ige asked that visitors' and residents' travel be curtailed through the end of October, limiting it to only essential business because "it is a risky time to be traveling right now."

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

At a Monday's press conference, he urged visitors to postpone travel as the state tries to manage the number of virus cases and keep its health care system from being overwhelmed.

"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."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Woman waits for COVID testing
Governor David Ige has asked tourists to limit travel to Hawaii until at least November as the state struggles to handle a surge in coronavirus cases. Above, Mia Sloan checks the details of how to receive proof of her in-airport coronavirus test results for a flight to Hawaii at Los Angeles International Airport on November 18, 2020. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Ige said that restaurant capacity has been restricted and that there's limited access to rental cars.

Ige stopped short of a mandate, saying it's a different time now than last year when strict travel rules that required quarantining essentially shut down Hawaii's tourism industry.

"Last year in March, when I first asked for visitors to postpone travel to the islands, we saw a 60 percent reduction in the traffic to Hawaii," Ige said. "And then, certainly, ordering the mandatory quarantine of all incoming visitors reduced travel to the islands by 99.5 percent, essentially 100 percent of travelers."

Things are different now with vaccines available and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying fully vaccinated people can travel domestically.

Ige said he supports Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi's announcement to restrict indoor gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 25.

Blangiardi said the rules taking effect Wednesday would apply to weddings and other events.

He's also urging people to get vaccinated.

Hiro Toiya, the city's emergency management director, cited a mathematical modeling tool from the Georgia Institute of Technology to illustrate risks the community faced from large gatherings.

The modeling shows there is a 20 percent chance that someone in a group of 10 will have the disease given the number of COVID-19 cases on Oahu now. But in a group of 100, there's a 90 percent chance someone will have it.

"So when you're looking at how transmissible delta is, we really got to control these large gatherings," Toiya said at a news conference. "The status quo is not working, and it's not acceptable."

Multiple Oahu hospitals have filled their regular beds as COVID-19 cases pour into emergency rooms. The city set up a 25-cot tent outside the Queen's Medical Center-West Oahu on Friday to help handle the influx.

Hawaii Tourism COVID-19
People on the beach at the Kahala Hotel and Resort in Honolulu. Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, File/AP Photo