Hawaii governor tells potential tourists not to visit as hospitals and ICUs are “filling up” with COVID patients

Hawaii Governor David Ige encouraged potential tourists not to visit the islands amid a surge of coronavirus cases, saying it is “a risky time to be traveling right now.” 

“I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii,” Ige said during a press conference on Monday. “It’s not a good time to travel to the islands.” 

Ige said that travel should be limited to “essential business activities only.” Visitors, he said, will not have the “typical” vacation that they would expect, as restaurant capacity has been restricted and rental vehicles are limited to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Ige’s warning comes as Hawaii continues to see a rise in COVID cases and hospitals have reached capacity. There have been more than 9,300 new cases in the past two weeks, according to the state’s health department. The majority of new cases haver been in Oahu, one of the most popular Hawaiian destinations for travelers.

“We are seeing more COVID patients in our hospitals and the ICUs are filling up,” Ige said on Monday. “.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.” 

Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the state’s health department, said in a statement that the COVID surge is mostly stemming from community spread and people flying to hotspot areas and “bringing COVID back.” 

“If things do not change, our health care systems will be crippled,” Char said, “and those needing medical care for all types of diseases, injuries and conditions, including our visitors, may find it difficult to get the treatment they need right away.”

Char said that COVID cases have gone up “for the past 10 Mondays.” 

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO John De Fries said that the number of visitors is starting to decline, which is typical as autumn approaches. 

“Our community, residents and the visitor industry, are responsible for working together to address this crisis,” De Fries said in a statement. “As such, we are strongly advising visitors that now is not the right time to travel, and they should postpone their trips through the end of October.”

Ige also reiterated the importance of proper hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as the importance of testing to be able to track the spread. 

“We know that the vaccines are effective at preventing death and severe illness, including hospitalizations,” Ige said, emphasizing that the Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval just hours before his press conference. 

Sixty-two percent of Hawaii citizens have been fully vaccinated, according to the state. 

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