The Safe Travels program has been integral in the process of traveling to Hawaii in the past year. In this episode of Hawaii’s Best, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green fills Bryan in on the latest updates and additions to the Safe Travels program.
Hawaii is starting to recover after the huge hit that was Covid, so if you travel soon, you may very well feel a sense of hope and resilience in the beautiful island air. And always, please support local!
Josh Green is a local doctor, husband, and father of two who has spent his life caring for Hawaii families.
After completing his medical training, Josh joined the National Health Corps and started his life’s work as a family physician and ER doctor in rural hospitals and clinics on the Big Island.
Josh served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008 and in the Hawaii State Senate from 2008 to 2018 where he chaired the Health Committee and Human Services Committee.
In 2005, Josh met his wife Jaime Ushiroda, a local girl from Kaneohe, and they were married in 2006.
Together they are the proud parents of 12-year-old daughter Maia and 8-year-old son Sam.
In 2009 he was named “Hawaii Physician of the Year”.
The hopes, challenges, and values of the families he cares for inspire Josh to do more to make life better for the people of Hawaii and he is honored to serve as their Lieutenant Governor.
Bio provided by ltgov.hawaii.gov
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- Safe Travels Program: Episode 50
- Traveling to Hawaii Responsibly: Episode 55
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Hawaii's Best 0:05
Welcome to Hawaii's Best Podcast, where we help you prepare for your next trip to Hawaii. Discover the experiences, businesses and stories that make Hawaii the Aloha state. And now your host, Brian Murphy.
Bryan Murphy 0:20
Hello and welcome to Hawaii's Best where we help prepare you for your next trip to Hawaii. I'm your host Brian Murphy, the owner of Hawaii's Best and I just want to say thank you so much for tuning in today. At the time that this episode has come out the release date is May 12 2021. Yesterday, on Tuesday, May 11, there was a significant change to Hawaii's Safe travels program and we talked about it not too long ago on a recent episode about the vaccine passport that is slowly getting rolled out. The idea of a vaccine passport option has been in talks for quite some time now. And now that we are here, the state launch yesterday may 11. In inner Island travel update, and if you have been vaccinated in Hawaii, and you are 15 days out from that final dose, you can be exempt from the mandatory quarantine and not having to test by showing proof of vaccination. So this is only happening with inter Island travel and you have had to have received your vaccine in Hawaii. Now the option to still test is still an option. So if you choose not to get vaccinated, or you're traveling with children, this is not for Trans Pacific travel people traveling from the mainland. This is only for those who have been fully vaccinated in the State of Hawaii and only for inner Island travel. Now the reason why I bring this up because this is kind of a testing point for the Safe travels program meaning the next phase in this vaccine passport will be for Trans Pacific travel and that is slated to roll out later this summer probably shortly after July 4. Now having said all of that, at Hawaii's Best, it is not our lane. It's not our role to have opinions on things like vaccines. That is I feel a personal choice. And one thing that I do want to highlight that as we continue in this conversation of vaccine passports is being an option is not the only way that you'll be able to travel to Hawaii the option to still test 72 hours prior to your final legs departure that will still be an option regardless. So this is an addition to the Safe travels program. This vaccine passport vaccine exemption or however you want to define it, but Hawaii's Best we simply just want to bring you the most accurate information and up to date. And that's why on today's podcast we have lieutenant governor Josh green who he and his team have spearheaded Safe travels program. So we wanted to go right to the source and kind of hear his thoughts and heartbeat behind this addition to the Safe travels program this additional additional exemption for inner Island travel and then soon to be we do talk about also in this conversation about what that will look like for mainland travel as well because that is the goal in the next couple months to release this and make this available for mainland travel. Before we jump into our conversation with lieutenant governor just want to give you a brief overview of who he is currently Dr. Greene serves as Hawaii's 14th lieutenant governor and once was elected in 2018. priorities for his office include homelessness crisis, health care disparities and statewide medical staff shortages and lack of affordable housing. With the onset of the covid 19 pandemic in 2020. Dr. Green was named as a state's COVID-19 liaison and has been a leader in helping curb the spread of Coronavirus and Hawaii. Dr. Green married his wife Jamie in 2006. And they have two kids together they enjoy playing board games together and frequenting Honolulu's many farmers markets in their free time. Dr. Green remains an avid fan of his hometown football team. The Pittsburgh Steelers he continues to serve as an emergency room physician twice monthly on weekends on Hawaii Island. So let's go ahead and let's talk story with lieutenant governor Josh green
Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much again for coming on Hawaii's Best. It's good to see you. How are you doing?
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 5:08
I'm doing great. And I'm really feeling positive about how Hawaii is doing people have done well through this process.
Bryan Murphy 5:15
Last time we had you on it was Episode 45, which is all the way back on December 9 of 2020. And I know a lot has obviously changed since then. But talking about right now, what is the current pulse on the reopening efforts? Sure.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 5:33
So it has been a lot of effort, but a huge amount of change over the last several months. As you know, dating back to October 15. We just started the Safe travels program. So we were just seeing the first six weeks when we spoke last. Since the start of that safe travels program Hawaii has seen 2,870,147 travelers screened. So just under 3 million with our Safe travels program 91% of those individuals successfully exempted from the mandatory 10 day quarantine because they got a test. Now within 72 hours of their travel. A very small number of people are currently in the 10 day quarantine cycle that's usually returning residents who just decide they just soon do that. We've had 2,166,598 visitors and 703,000 residents travel almost all safely. We've not seen a surge in cases over these months, with a small exception of Maui, which had a surge about six eight weeks ago. But that was community spread. It was not travel related for the most part. So the program has been going very well the Safe travels program. And it's good and timely that we're speaking today because we're going to take it to the next level soon. So as everyone knows, you got to get that pre test within 72 hours from one of our partners and that has been working well. Come may 11. Those individuals who were vaccinated in the State of Hawaii, these are essentially Hawaii residents who were vaccinated here will be able to travel inter Island freely if they're vaccinated. So not vaccinated fully, which means get your two shots for Pfizer majorna plus two weeks to get your immunity or Johnson Johnson plus two weeks. If you are fully vaccinated, you're just going to upload your card or show your card and you will not need a test. This is important to mention, though I think a lot of our viewers may be on the mainland and interested in Okay, well, that's just good for the local residents. Well, this is like the test case. This is what we can verify right? We will move to use the same policy for mainland travel, domestic travel to Hawaii sometime in the mid summer, probably just after July 4 weekend, and we'll give you updates constantly. So we wanted to make sure we could verify people were vaccinated. And some people use the words vaccination passport, what we're really calling this a vaccine exception to the Safe travels rules. But we will move that direction so that if you're fully vaccinated, you will need to do the pretest if you're not vaccinated, just still be able to use that pre test processes. We don't want to discriminate.
Bryan Murphy 8:04
Gotcha. What Can someone who's traveling right now? What can they expect their experience to be
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 8:09
explained pretty seamless. We're in partnership with a company called clear and common pass, airlines are using them to make sure that you get the test uploaded properly. And people have been just flying through the process at the airport, they've been really coming through easily, I would just remind people be very careful not to get the wrong test, because that creates a lot of hard feelings. And we don't want that a lot of people are now showing up and saying, Hey, I'm already vaccinated. Well, I acknowledge that. And as a physician, I think that that is exactly where we are heading. The GOP is just being very cautious and has been waiting to make sure that we have a nice stable system where we can at least do a little bit of check to make sure people legitimately got vaccinated. So right now it's the same as before, get the Safe travels test COMM And have a great experience. We're seeing big increases in the number of travelers, hotel occupancy. It's just been a lot of extra activity much faster than most people predicted that I was pretty certain we were going to see a lot of people returning to Hawaii because people missed it for more than a year. Yeah, they had saved some of the resources. A lot of people who might have been waiting for years to come, didn't do other small trips, and they're now coming here for two, three and four weeks. It's amazing. So really just a simple process, get your test done within 72 hours of your last departure site, and then come and have an amazing time here. We're having low case rates overall, our average case rate for the last seven days has been 80 per day, lowest in the nation. Our fatality rates been lowest in the nation for the whole pandemic. We've now done 1.2 million vaccines in Hawaii population of 1.4 million people. So we're about halfway there. You need two shots for the most part to be vaccinated. So we're fifth in the nation as far as vaccines go delivering the vaccines and we're first in the for low rates of COVID, and, and fatalities, so it makes Hawaii what it's always been is a magical place. But it makes it a little more special because I think we've been very cognizant of the health consequences of the pandemic and all things considered. I'm so pleased with how people have been responsible. We're asking people, you know, to mulamba one another, which is, you know, to show concern and care for one another. And that's what this process is built on.
Bryan Murphy 10:27
Now, zooming out a little bit, this safe travels program, like you mentioned, was up and running. October 15. This is something that you and your office overseas and launch, is that correct?
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 10:40
Yes, that's right. With high EMI, the Hawaii Emergency Management folks, we were the ones that were really the advocates, the principal advocates for a program because we knew we had to open up if people were call dating back a year, back, you know, in March of 20, we shut down completely, and we dropped off by 99.6%, the travelers and eventually that had to change. But that was a moment of crisis for the world. We knew that we also were vulnerable, because we had travelers from the East where the virus had originated and the West, where there's big surges in Europe, in New York, in the East Coast. So we play it safe for our people for a time. But yes, we oversee that we do our very best to be sensible with travelers, but you got to follow the rules and income because that's how we've maintained such low numbers, low case counts, low numbers in the hospital, low mortality rates, all of those things were very tied into one another. And that's why when we take the next step, it will first be for inter Island travel for those who are vaccinated here. And then quickly or shortly thereafter, we will get to travel from the mainland. So we know that people have been vaccinated are safe. The CDC opined on that and said that it's safe to travel, one of the questions
Bryan Murphy 11:53
we get is where we are with international travel, are you able to speak into that at all? A
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 11:59
little bit. So we have relationships directly with certain countries, several countries, and the airlines that fly them. So we have testing partners in Korea, Japan, Canada, I believe that that's left to the relationships that they have with the airlines to get, you know, their pre test done, we need to make that more vibrant. And so that's why we're going into a relationship with clear and common pass, because they have 10s of 1000s of testing partners. And so people will be able to go to those companies in those websites. And just make sure that their tests can be done and run safely and validated for travel. Again, it's important, go to the Hawaii COVID-19 dot com website. And there's a ton of information there. If people want extra info, I give a one minute update every day. Sounds quick. But we give a lot of information. It's our social media. It's at Lt. Gov. Josh green at Lt. Gov. Josh green and we try to give people updated information. Sometimes we're directing people even where they can get vaccinated and what they can do. That's usually more benefit, of course, to people who live in Hawaii. Yeah, but I've heard a lot of people traveling from California and Midwest or whatever, say they actually follow our our updates just to get a general idea of how things are going because they're thoughtful, they're traveling
Bryan Murphy 13:09
soon. I always loved tuning in for the board flip.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 13:11
Yes, I haven't been flipping the board as much lately.
Bryan Murphy 13:13
Unknown Speaker 13:14
I better start doing that again.
Bryan Murphy 13:17
Alright, so staring down may alignment. I mean, that's a big, big marker in this next step into safe travels. And you made mention of it. But I know a lot of people who are listening right now are probably already familiar with Safe travels. But if we're using this term vaccine passport, this is kind of an in addition to the Safe travels, you would still utilize your safe travels account, is that correct?
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 13:38
That's right, you'll upload a picture of your of your vaccine card. And that will be sufficient. The artificial intelligence will verify that validate that that's it, and then bring your card with you. So you can show it, it's very important. It's going to be the process over time, that's where we will be. If you are fully vaccinated, you'll travel to Hawaii or within Hawaii, without any issue at all. And if it's not a choice that you make to be vaccinated, and you want to avoid quarantine, you'll just get the pretest. But either way the Safe travels site will exist. At least until the fall we're thinking probably November until we see that we have herd immunity and it's died down across the globe COVID virus, and then we'll be in the clear, but it's really important that people know that we still have a methodology here to keep our council low because we don't know what ultimately happened with the variants. We're seeing dear friends of ours in India, seeing a large surge, and that can cause problems. So we want to kind of keep our eye on this carefully, all the way into 2022. When things drop off, it may very well be that we don't have as much in the way of safe travels at the end of this year. But we'll still be watching COVID and the numbers and our hospitalizations and what have you because the virus won't suddenly be extinguished globally. Probably in America. It will be down extremely low by this summer but you just can't tell what will happen with The virus of this size,
Bryan Murphy 15:01
you may mention and just want to get clarity to because it's another one of the questions that we get a lot is the testing option is still an option, meaning if your choices to not be fully vaccinated, you can still test is that correct?
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 15:16
That's right. Absolutely. Okay. So if you choose not to be vaccinated, or your member, your children may very well not be vaccinated, but you want to travel with that that's true, yeah, then you can use the pretest. And that's important to remember, we do know that children down to age 11, at least will soon be authorized likely by Pfizer to get vaccines, and that's gonna be exciting. I have a 14 year old, so that's gonna make a difference. We have a 10 year old also, who will not yet qualify. So it's a process. But yes, we will leave Safe travels in place so that people do not feel that if they just don't believe in vaccinations that they are discriminated against in any way. That's not our intent. Our intent is really just to keep the virus at a low level. And to keep people basically say from a public health standpoint, and if that works for people keep doing that. And we'll give you updates if we change the testing criteria or anything like that. But using the Hawaii COVID-19 dot com website, using our partners, that's been pretty good. Like I said, 91% of the people navigated well. 9% have a challenge. And I, I understand,
Bryan Murphy 16:20
yeah, and there's even some airports, for example, Hawaiian Airlines is pre clearing at the departure airport, which makes you land somewhere like in Honolulu makes that process so much smoother and quicker.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 16:33
Yes, I want people just to understand that we're moving very methodically, but steadily to a place where we will make it easy to travel to Hawaii, I expect 70% of America to actually get a vaccine by the summer. And all of those individuals will be able to, by that time, upload their picture of that car to travel here, as easy as can be. And everyone else who chooses not to, we'll leave the Safe travels program in place so that you can just get the test. But overall, please everyone, remember that we're doing all that we can to keep the virus at bay here in the islands. It's not been a coincidence that we've had the lowest rates in the country. It's been hard work. But we're feeling more comfortable than ever with travel to our state. And we thank everyone. I want to say personally from my, my team, myself, my wife, Jamie and I, we want to thank people for still believing in Hawaii and loving Hawaii. Because every time 50 people come to Hawaii, another job is created for a whole year. And those are families that are appreciative of what people invest in their time here in Hawaii. And more importantly, Hawaii really represents a special vibe for the whole world. And we I think need a little bit of that after going through a year of COVID. So Hawaii, I hope will be that, you know that special place that people decide to come to? And we're gonna make it as healthy and safe as possible. As you
Bryan Murphy 17:56
do. Curious as things have opened up. You know, since like we mentioned the last time we talked was probably about five, six months ago, a lot has reopened. And just curious. I know you've been super busy. We all have in as you've been leading this. But what about you How have you recharged this these last couple months and maybe speaking into some of the places that have maybe reopened on island was kind of a spot for you and your family that you'd like to recharge? Sure. Well, we
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 18:25
did a staycation. It was really wonderful. Yeah, a bunch of hotels that we love, but we decided to of course spend our money here. And I went over in the course of work when I do travel to the Big Island and Maui I've gone to was you know, after work when made sure that we spent some of our resources here at really wonderful place. I was a mama's fish house the other day and they were so generous and gracious to us. It was wonderful. And around a wahoo our hotels have been really commenting so they went through a lot. And you know, it's nice to see our friends over at mana Lottie on Big Island thriving, I met with them and we talked and they're already seeing very large bookings come back because it's been so safe and, and the Big Island has done such a good job keeping cases very low. So these are great diamonds in the rough. But really, people are recovering nicely. I can't say enough good things about our hospitality industry and the patient's they've demonstrated that they still want to put more people back to work. They're excited about that. A lot of people have been kind of out of the workforce for the better part of a year and they're shaking off the rust. But my family has done that. And eventually we're going to do another family reunion back like we often have done on the mainland, but we've been pacing ourselves because it's important. I think that we invest here in the islands. I'm starting to encourage my relatives to come here for extended stays again. Now that they're vaccinated and the time is coming. They can do it more easily, just like so many of your viewers right? We're still playing a lot of cards and cooking at home and our kids are finally going back to school. So right yeah. Yes, it's a good thing. But just like regular families were eager to be able to have traveled both into Hawaii easily and out of Hawaii so that we can go back and see our parents and grandparents and old friends to the days are coming, we're gonna feel very normal come summer, believe it or not here in Hawaii. And I think people will, will have that experience when they decide to travel here and just quickly upload their test for now but vaccine card once we finalize that program, and it won't be like nothing ever happened, but I'll tell you, people are very resilient. And, and we have heard stories that after these large global crises, people tend to forget in 18 months to two years, how difficult things were. And I think that's part of the healing process. And I'm expecting that also with this COVID-19 experience. We're over halfway done with our vaccine program. We're going to continue to do that really rigorously as we open up the state. And we will quickly get to a full 2 million vaccinations given or a million people vaccinated, that will give us herd immunity and it will make it even easier for us to relax restrictions as travelers come. So all these things are tied together and my team is going to tie a bow around it over the next couple months. And then move back to some of our key priorities like housing for people homelessness issues, health care, all those kinds of things will come back into our radar.
Bryan Murphy 21:17
so important. Well, thank you so much, Lieutenant Governor, appreciate you Thank you.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green 21:20
You bet. Take care.
Bryan Murphy 21:21
See, right. I just want to thank the Lieutenant Governor again for his time and coming on the podcast today. To get the notes of what we talked about in this episode, you can go to Hawaii's Best travel comm slash Episode 62. That's episode six, two, and you'll be able to find the links and a little bit more info over there from the conversation that we just had. So as the state begins to look towards implementing this vaccine passport for the mainland travelers, be sure to stay up to date and we'll give you all that info as becomes available. Be sure to hit subscribe. And if you've been hanging out for some time listening to this podcast would just kindly ask you to leave a rating and review if you're listening on Apple podcast. will again thank you so much for listening all the way through and for your time. And until next time, be well. Aloha.
Hawaii's Best 22:21
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