Hawaii is experiencing its highest number of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began. Governor David Ige asked tourists and residents to rethink their travel plans.
“We have a hospital system that has declared an internal state of emergency, and we are starting to see trailers brought in to help with the morgue,” says Casey Harlow, a reporter at Hawaii Public Radio.
He’s based in Oahu, which will require proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test to get into restaurants, bars, and other indoor businesses starting September 13. The Big Island is limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to 10 people. Harlow says government officials are trying to toe a line by putting certain restrictions in place without going to a complete lockdown.
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Despite the governor’s plea, visitors continue to flock to Hawaii, especially those from Southern California. Not only does the LA region hold the largest population of Hawaiians outside of the island, but Hawaii is a popular tourist destination for Southern Californias.
Erin Lau, who was born and raised in Oahu and moved to LA six years ago, is staying away and encouraging others to do the same.
“A lot of people we care about are getting sick or feeling the burden of it. The pressure is really starting to build,” she says, noting it’s frustrating to see her friends live their “best eat-pray-love life” vacationing in Hawaii, while her mom can’t see her aunt because she feels it’s not safe.
“I understand after this last year, we all need a little space, but it’s not good for us right now back home,” she says. “There are other places we can go.”