Tens of thousands of maskless spring breakers have descended upon Hawaii — sparking safety fears in a state which has managed to keep its COVID-19 infection rate one of the lowest in the country.
Hawaii’s “Safe Travels” program said 28,000 people flew into and throughout the islands on Saturday alone — the highest number since the pandemic began, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“We haven’t seen travel demand for Hawaii this strong for over a year,” said Jack Richards, the CEO of travel company Pleasant Holidays.
The vast majority appeared to be spring breakers, with booking increasing 30 percent over the last two weeks after a “terrible” start to the year, he told the paper.
“We’ve gone from zero to 150 mph in two weeks,” Richards told the outlet. “I thought we would have a U-shaped recovery; it’s V-shaped,” he said.
Saturday’s tally was close to pre-pandemic levels, when Hawaii had about 30,000 arrivals daily, travel officials said. Those numbers plummeted when strict quarantine rules were enforced, devastating the state’s tourism-dependent economy.
Travelers are now able to sidestep the 10-day quarantine by taking pre-travel COVID-19 tests, allowing for the current surge in visitors to the state with one of the lowest rates of confirmed coronavirus infections in the US.
Locals are thrilled to see beaches once again packed with visitors as the economic need for tourists remains ever-present — but are aghast at how many ignore mask mandates, according to Hawaii News Now.
Many tourists told the outlet that they were forgoing the face-coverings outdoors because they did not need them in their own states.
Tourism officials say they are trying to educate visitors about the ongoing mask mandates, which include most public areas, even outdoors.
Most people “are cooperative when informed of it,” a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi told The Associated Press.
Other officials meanwhile have stressed to concerned locals that the risks of packed beaches are also lower because travelers have had to either quarantine or test negative for COVID-19.
With Post wires