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Hawaiʻi will lift COVID-19 travel quarantine rules. The mask mandate remains

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Ryan Finnerty/HPR
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Hawaiʻi plans to lift its COVID-19 quarantine requirement for travelers this month. Starting on March 26, those arriving from other places in the U.S. won't have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid sequestering themselves for five days.

Nearly two years after the first coronavirus case arrived in Hawaiʻi, almost all COVID-related restrictions will be lifted this month.

County-level COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. That means there are no limits on gathering sizes, and no vaccine requirements for restaurants and gyms.

Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday that state-level restrictions will not end until March 25, when the current emergency proclamation expires.

Starting March 26, the Safe Travels program will end for domestic travelers. It required visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid quarantine.

Hawaiʻi is the only U.S. state to implement a coronavirus quarantine program of this kind. Ige said the requirement saved lives and was a major factor in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the islands.

The quarantine period for travelers lasted 14 days when Hawaiʻi first imposed it in March 2020. The state later created testing and vaccination exemptions — and decreased the quarantine length.

The state screened 11.3 million passengers since the testing exemption was launched in October 2020, Ige said.

Those arriving in Hawaiʻi from outside the country still must adhere to U.S. federal guidelines, which vary depending on American citizenship. International tourists do not need to quarantine but still need proof of vaccination and a negative test.

Also starting March 26, state and county workers will not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Ige said he would maintain Hawaiʻi's indoor mask mandate at least through March 25 — and would be evaluating whether to lift it after that. Hawaiʻi is the last state in the nation with a statewide mandate in effect.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its mask-wearing guidelines, recommending masks for counties with high levels of cases. Hawaiʻi’s four main counties are currently rated medium or low. Ige said the state Department of Health will review the recommendations before he decides.

U.S. COVID-19 Community Levels by County Data provided by CDC Updated: Feb. 24, 2022
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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U.S. COVID-19 Community Levels by County | Updated: Feb. 24, 2022

Ige said he wants to make sure that public schools will be able to continue with in-person learning. He said more people will be traveling as spring break comes, which could increase the presence of the coronavirus at schools.

"The pandemic is not over. Tragically, we continue to see those that we know and love continue to suffer from COVID-19," he said.

Ige thanked residents Tuesday for their cooperation with the state during the pandemic.

"What I'm most proud of really has been the response of our community. I was amazed that everyone was willing to do their part. You know, we understand what makes Hawaiʻi special and it is about the people, place and culture," he said.

"All of us here, coming from diverse backgrounds, but always understanding that there is a bigger reason to be willing to sacrifice individual needs to benefit the community. And over and over again, we were willing to do that. And that is why we have amongst the lowest per capita rates of infection, and the lowest per capita deaths in the country," Ige said at a press conference.

Pop-up vaccine clinics and testing sites will be scaled back, but hospitals will continue to provide COVID-19 services as needed, he said.

As of Wednesday, the state had a seven-day average daily case count of 200, and a positivity rate of 2.7%. Just over 76% of the state is fully vaccinated.

The Associated Press reporter Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report.

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