At least 28,000 Spring Breakers descended on Hawaii over the weekend with many defying the state’s outdoor mask mandate as infections surge in some states but deaths fall by 42 per cent.
Hawaii’s ‘Safe Travels’ program reported that about 28,000 people flew into and throughout the islands on Saturday, the highest number of travelers in a single day since the pandemic began, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.
Before the pandemic, Hawaii had about 30,000 arrivals daily. When quarantine rules were put in place early in the pandemic, arrivals plummeted and the state’s tourism-dependent economy tanked.
In October, state officials launched a pre-travel testing program that allowed visitors to sidestep quarantine rules. But travel remained sluggish until the second week in March, when spring break tourists started arriving in the islands.
Scroll down for video
Travel company Pleasant Holidays president and CEO Jack Richards told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the agency’s bookings increased 30 per cent over the last two weeks.
‘We haven’t seen travel demand for Hawaii this strong for over a year,’ Richards said.
‘I thought we would have a U-shaped recovery; it’s V-shaped. January and February were terrible, but we’ve gone from zero to 150mph in two weeks.’
Hawaii News Now reported that officials are receiving complaints about visitors not wearing masks. With a few exceptions, people in Hawaii are still required to wear masks while in public.
‘I’m a believer that if you’re outdoors, you can remove it,’ said Glenn Day, a visitor from Indiana.
Visitors said rules in their home states are different than those in place in Hawaii. There are 17 states that recommend but do not require masks be worn in public.
‘We carry our masks around and if we walk into an establishment we’ll wear one, and if people look like they´re uncomfortable with us around, we’ll put one on. But otherwise, like I said where we come from, people are really not required to wear them,’ Wisconsin visitor Larry Dopke said.
‘I’m not wearing one right now, I’m outdoors,’ said Todd Hasley who was visiting from Idaho. ‘Boise city has an indoor mask mandate. The rest of the state has a mask recommendation.’
Some lawmakers expressed concern about a possible backlash from residents.
‘I think we’re all going to have to be prepared for a potential surge in tourism,’ said Hawaii state Rep Scott Saiki, a Democrat.
‘I think we have to be prepared because the public may have a response to a sudden surge.’
Such a reaction could hinder economic recovery.
‘Pushing back against tourism is the same thing as telling your neighbor they shouldn’t have a job,’ said Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization.
Hawaii requires all visitors and returning residents to get negative pre-travel COVID-19 tests before flying to the state to be exempt from the 10-day quarantine rule.
The island of Kauai has additional measures that will be in place until April 5.
All visitors to Kauai must either spend three days on another island or quarantine at a county-approved resort for three days and then get second, post-arrival tests.
Violating the state’s coronavirus mandates, which are outlined in Hawaii Gov David Ige’s latest emergency proclamation, is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, a year in prison, or both.
Each island county’s police are responsible for enforcing the rules. Messages from The Associated Press seeking comment from the Honolulu Police Department regarding enforcement of mask rules in Waikiki was not immediately returned.
Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, said in an email that the city recently put up banners throughout Waikiki reminding people to wear masks and remain socially distanced.
‘These banners provide a tool to help Honolulu Police officers do their jobs in gaining compliance with COVID-19 rules,’ Sakahara said.
‘The majority of residents and visitors are compliant with the rule or are cooperative when informed of it.’
However, some residents have also opposed wearing masks. Two people were arrested and two others were cited during a weekend anti-mask rally in Waikiki.
As of Wednesday, the US surpassed 30 million COVID-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, and recorded more than 545,000 deaths.
Hawaii has had among the lowest rates of confirmed coronavirus infections in the US with more than 28,000 infections and 451 deaths.
Currently, Hawaii averages about 75 new COVID-19 cases per day. The state also has a 1.5 per cent test positivity rate.
However in Maui and Honolulu counties test positivity rates are up 36 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively, between March 7 and March 20.
Spring Breakers descended on Hawaii just a week after Florida was overtaken by thousands of revelers.
Hordes of drunken revelers ignoring the pandemic forced parts of Miami Beach into a state of emergency.
Miami Beach is an annual partying hotspot over the spring break holiday as thousands of people — many of them students — travel from across the US to embrace the warm weather, golden sand and late-night bars.
But this year, the destination was overwhelmed by visitors unleashing built-up frustration at COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions.
Police were forced to break up crowds of tourists dancing on car roofs and passing bottles from hand to hand as they celebrated — prematurely — the end of the pandemic.
Fights and clashes with police also erupted, along with some gun shots fired into the air.
‘It has been a hard time with the spring break. As residents, we are cautious,’ said Radha Silva, 49.
‘It’s always been busy, but I guess this year because of the pandemic… unfortunately all those people, they’re coming here and are unconscious about preserving the place.
‘It has never like this year. I don’t remember seeing spring break like this.’
‘People gonna live. Corona is over, winter is over, get the vaccine, get back to business,’ said Joseph, a young visitor from New Jersey.
‘People are just out here enjoying the beach and it’s a good vibe, but they want to shut it down at 8.00pm.’
On weekends, police will start imposing a curfew on the most touristy streets, and at night the bridges that connect the island with Miami city will be closed.
Since February, police have confiscated 80 weapons and made more than 1,000 arrests, about 400 of them for serious crimes.
Across other parts of the US, states are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions and do away with mask mandates.
Indiana Gov Eric Holcomb announced this week that the state’s mask mandate will end on April 6.
His state joins six other states that have lifted mask mandates, a move that goes against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which still recommends masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Alabama and Utah are set to lift their mask mandates in April as well.
Meanwhile, Holcomb along with the governors of Texas and Georgia have announced plans to open eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone over 16 within the next week.
Georgia Gov Brian Kemp said on Tuesday that starting this Thursday ‘all adults in Georgia over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine’.
Holcomb tweeted that vaccine eligibility will be open to all residents ’16 years and older on Wednesday, March 31, provided Indiana receives a large increase in the amount of vaccine as outlined by the federal government’.
In Texas, Gov Greg Abbott shared that the state will open COVID-19 vaccine appointments ‘to all adults’ beginning on Monday.
The three states join West Virginia, Tennessee and Arizona which announced plans to offer vaccines to anyone over 16 within the next two weeks.
Two states – Mississippi and Alaska – are already inoculating residents 16 and up, but West Virginia, Tennessee and Arizona revealed plans to expand access by May 3.
The news comes as new coronavirus infections are rising in several US states – something being attributed to pandemic fatigue plus new variants from the UK, Brazil, South Africa and within the US.
The seven-day average of newly reported cases climbed 2.6 per cent on Sunday, even as overall hospitalizations and deaths remain down.
COVID-19 deaths have dramatically fallen in the United States over the past few weeks, but cases seem to have plateaued.
Over the last two weeks, COVID-19-related fatalities have declined from a seven-day rolling average of 1,752 deaths per day to 1,001 deaths, representing a 42 per cent drop, a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins University data showed.
By comparison, infections have dropped over the past 14 days from a seven-day rolling average of 58,589 per day to 52,935, a modest nine percent decrease, the analysis found.
On Tuesday, the US recorded 52,878 new cases and 894 new deaths.
Public health experts have previously stated that deaths are a lagging indicator and that they are finally beginning to drop drastically just as infections were a few weeks prior.
Some states have finally seen a decrease in coronavirus cases after holding steady for several months, including California and Texas.
But at least 21 states are experiencing a rise, such as Spring Break haven Florida, where infections among the age 24-to-49 bracket are surging.
What’s more, the majority of states in the Northeast have a case rate higher than the national average, in some areas more than double.
‘I continue to be worried about the latest data and the apparent stall we are seeing in the trajectory of the pandemic,’ CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
‘Decisions we make now will determine how the pandemic looks in the days and weeks ahead. If we choose to invest in prevention right now, we will come back out of this pandemic faster and with fewer lives lost.’
Officials continue to warn that the pandemic is not over yet so residents must not let their guard down and forego masks or social distancing.
Source: Read Full Article