Many locations in the United States have reopened to visitors, travel agents and health officials said. But they are warning potential travelers there are specific tasks and documents that have to be completed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Failure to do so could have the traveler being quarantined in a hotel room at the vacation spot. Some of the most stringent requirements can be found in Hawaii, a local couple recently discovered.
Darrell Gordon said he and his wife had completed their COVID-19 vaccination regiment and then tested negative for the virus before undertaking their recent trip to Hawaii. But due to the stringent requirements in the island state, the couple had to make an immediate return trip home shortly after arriving at the vacation destination.
Gordon said he and his wife arrived at the airport in Hawaii on April 16 and were told they would have to either agree to be quarantined in their hotel for 10 days or agree to get an immediate return flight home.
"Despite all we did, they said we couldn't stay there and would have to leave," Gordon said. "We had to immediately go to the hotel and quarantine. We tried to go out for a bite to eat, but the police came looking for us. We managed to get a flight back home and got back Sunday night."
According to information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, officials in Hawaii have said proof of vaccination is not a recognized exemption to the Hawaii travel quarantine.
DHSS officials said Hawaii Gov. David Ige is mandating all passengers traveling to Hawaii (visitors and returning residents) must self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.
Hawaii did announce a pre-testing travel program, which reopened the islands to visitors in October, as long as visitors bring along proof of a negative NAAT test (nucleic acid amplification test) from a state-approved, trusted testing partner and complete a state travel and health form upon arrival within the state. The only partner on that list with stores in Central Missouri is Walgreens.
The negative test result must be uploaded onto the State of Hawaii Safe Travels Hawaii program before the traveler's departure or printed out prior to departure, and a hard copy is required in hand when arriving in Hawaii.
At Central Travel in downtown Jefferson City, manager Jackie Coakley and the other travel advisers said traveling to many destinations now requires people to do their homework before they go.
"Both Los Angeles and New York require visitors to have documentation filed with them before coming to their cities," Coakley said. "If you don't have that, then you can be fined. In New York, the fine is up to $2,000."
Coakley said they tell their clients to not depend on social media such as Facebook and Twitter to get their information, but go to the Centers for Disease Control website or find the websites for the specific states or cities where they want to go. That's where you'll find the correct information about what you need to be able to go around and visit.
Coakley also said people are finding out they have to have forms and information completed just to go to some particular landmarks and sites.
"One of the best sources is Southwest Airlines," Coakley said. "Once you get on their site, if you search COVID, they will have information on destinations and what restrictions are or are not in place."
Coakley said people who want to fly somewhere have to really be organized because you just can't hop on a plane and go to many places right now.
"People that want to travel need to remember that just having completed your vaccinations doesn't mean you're able to go any place you want," she said. "You have to abide by the rules of the state you're wanting to go to. We're trying to advise people that contact us how much is involved to go to some of these places."
Gordon said he and his wife wanted to make sure others knew what could happen to them after all the precautions that they had taken.
"The people at the hotel we were at said they had been turning away several people, even families that planned big trips, just because they didn't have what the state required," Gordon said.