Visiting Hawaii

Many of us on the West Coast who’ve been isolating during the pandemic have been dreaming of finally returning to one of our favorite vacation destinations, Hawaii. But the state government has been cautious about opening up, even discouraging airlines from resuming their regular scheduled service. In fact, it’s been the only state that’s not fully opened for good reasons: as a series of islands it can, and it has a limited hospital system that can get easily overwhelmed with Covid patients.

Yet the desire to escape to Hawaii has been too tempting for may to avoid. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said 215,148 visitors came to the island in May compared to just 1,054 during the same time last year.

So it was with some trepidation that my wife and I decided to visit this month. Like many, owning a time-share property or vacation rental meant use it or lose it. Alaska Air also balked at providing a full refund for the tickets we purchased last year, even though legally they are required to. Having heard about all of the various regulations each island had imposed, I was unsure of how much work would be required to make the trip. And would we risk being forced to isolate if a test showed a positive result?

I needn’t have been concerned, because at last Hawaii has gotten their act together and has developed a simple process to reduce the risk of Covid transmission from those arriving from elsewhere in the United States or its territories. The key was an easy to use on-line process.

Now those that are fully vaccinated can visit without requiring a quarantine or a test. They must have had their vaccination completed 15 or more days before their arrival. This past month I put the process to the test, and it worked well.

Prior to the visit, I registered on Hawaii’s site. It asked me for my flight information, where I was staying and then asked me to upload an image of my vaccine card, as well as filling in the specific information that was on the card. The site, usable from a phone and PC, is well designed. When I began to enter my hotel, it found it and automatically populated the address and phone. After I entered the information, the app generated a QR code to put on phone. The app also requested me to come back to it within 24 hours of my flight time and enter my latest health information and to confirm I had no fever or other symptoms.

When I arrived at the airport, my airline, Alaska, had an agent at a table reviewing each passenger’s information. They checked my QR code on my phone to access my Hawaiian application on their device, check my ID and other information, and then updated my QR code in real time. They then attached a paper bracelet to my wrist.

Once I arrived in Hawaii, that bracelet was used to whiz through the airport without needing a screening and used at my hotel to verify my health. While it took Hawaii quite while to sort our their processes and regulations, it’s now a model for others. Of course, it requires you to have had vaccines, making it safer for visitors and residents alike.

It was comforting to see that everywhere we went, masking and distancing were the norm and restaurants were at half capacity or take out only.

iPhone now stores your credentials in your wallet

iPhone users are encouraged to update their OS to 15.1. The new version allows you to store your health QR code in the Wallet to quickly bring up. Up to now you needed to turn the code into a photo and retrieve it from your photo library. Now once you retrieve your code, simply press on the code from your phone and click “Add to Wallet and Health. The detailed information including shot dates and type appears in your Health app.

by Phil Baker