Travel is possible, but sometimes questionable
Also: COVID-19 variants and border rules disrupt Canada crossings
January 1, 2022 | View PDF
The recent COVID-19 variant Omicron is affecting travel as the pandemic shows no sign of waning. And for Alaskans, with winter coming on, the need for sun and fun as well as cultural stimulation poses the classic question: "Should I stay or should I go?"
Hawaii, our kissing cousin on almost any map of the United States, is our main source of Vitamin D and fresh fruit in the dark time. We can still go there but there are rules.
As you know, Hawaii defends its environment from invasive species and plants because its native species have been so affected by historic intruders. We're all used to filling out those declaration forms of what animals and fruit and vegetables we're bringing in before we land.
Now, like the State of Alaska, you must create an online user account on the State of Hawaii Safe Travel website.
Once you create your Safe Travels Hawai'i account, enter your traveler information and trip details on its application form.
It's important to get the correct COVID-19 test and upload the correct form or vaccination record document.
Visit Safe Travels Hawai'i Help for answers to questions about the online application form. If you need assistance with login or technical issues, call the Safe Travels Program at 1-800-GOHAWAII (1-800-464-2924), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time.
Wait, there's more!
Hawaii visitors ages five and older who want to bypass quarantine and who choose not to participate in the vaccination exception program will be required to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment lab in order to bypass the State of Hawaii's 10-day mandatory quarantine. This applies only for domestic passengers from the U.S. and its Territories.
The state will only accept test results from AZOVA, CLEAR and CommonPass labs.
The test needs to be taken no more than 72 hours before your flight departure time. If you have a multi-city flight itinerary, the departure time is from the last city you leave before arriving at a Hawaii airport (if your travel is from Chicago to Seattle to Honolulu, the departure time to look at is your flight from Seattle).
Once you receive your negative pre-travel test result, you need to upload the result to your Safe Travels Hawai'i account. This step is crucial, as it will be the only means for airport officials to verify your Safe Travel Hawai'i information on your arrival in Hawaii.
If the correct form is not uploaded to the Safe Travels Hawai'i account prior to departure and or have a hard copy in hand when arriving in Hawaii, you must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. The State of Hawaii will also accept vaccine records that are digitally validated by Digital Health Pass Partners.
If you receive an indeterminate result or inconclusive result prior to departure, you will be placed in 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
Once you have created your account and entered your trip information, you will need to complete the mandatory health questionnaire available in your account 24 hours prior to departure. A QR code will be emailed to you. Prior to boarding or when you deplane in Hawaii, you will be asked to present your QR code and your negative test result to airport personnel either on paper or on your mobile phone, along with a legally valid photo ID.
If you receive a negative result while in quarantine, you still need to remain in quarantine for 10 days or the length of your trip, whichever is shorter.
If you receive a positive result while in quarantine, you are required to go into isolation until you recover and at least 10 days have passed since the start of symptoms or positive test, and at least 24 hours have passed without a fever without the use of fever reducing medicine. Health services guidance will be provided to you by the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH). If you are traveling with others, they will be required to quarantine in Hawaii for 10 days since their last contact with you, plus an additional 10 days after you are cleared from isolation if staying together.
All incoming domestic trans-Pacific Hawaii travelers from the U.S. will receive temperature checks upon arrival. Photos will be temporarily retained only for persons with elevated temperatures of 100.4 F degrees and above for identification and additional assessments by airport representatives.
All incoming domestic trans-Pacific travelers from the U.S. arriving with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher, displaying COVID-19 symptoms, and/or providing answers on the Mandatory State of Hawaii Travel and Health Form requiring additional testing will be required to complete a secondary screening at the airport performed by trained health care staff.
Travelers who violate the terms of the 10-day mandatory self-quarantine will be prosecuted and may face fines of up to $5,000 and one year in prison.
If you are not in quarantine, there are no restrictions or requirements for inter-county travel. Each county has its own COVID-19 guidelines, so familiarize yourself with each county's rules.
Plus, there's this: Hawaii Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency for the entire state on December 6 and urged residents to prepare for major flooding, landslides, road closures and damage to homes.
All of this is hard to take in and deal with, but a week or two in Hawaii makes the winter fly by when you return to the frozen north.
Still, my head just blew up.
Canada reinstates its travel ban
Temporary border restrictions and measures to address COVID-19 Omicron variant of concern for fully vaccinated travelers arriving by air or land, who have been in any country
other than Canada and the U.S. in the 14 days prior to entry to Canada, will now be subject to arrival testing and enhanced public health measures. Travelers arriving by air may take connecting flights to their place of quarantine.
The new regulations are very complicated.
Because of the new variant, those who have been in Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, within 14 days before arriving in Canada, will be subject to arrival testing and enhanced public health measures.
Foreign nationals are not permitted entry into Canada - including a United States citizen.
Canadian citizens, permanent residents, people with status under the Indian Act, also known as the Jay Treaty, are subject to enhanced pre-entry and arrival testing, screening and quarantine measures.
The Jay Treaty is an agreement signed by the United States and Great Britain in 1794 to allow Canadian born Native Americans to travel freely across the U.S.-Canadian border.
Travelers, fully vaccinated and unvaccinated, are required to stay at a designated quarantine facility while they await their arrival test result.
A resident of Alaska who enters Canada via the Yukon Territory to get to another place in Alaska, or to return to their place of residence may do so as long as they remain in their vehicle while passing through Canada
But what about border towns?
Good question! An "integrated trans-border community," like Akwesasne in New York state that is on both sides of the border, is an example of where a resident of that community can enter Canada if necessary for carrying out everyday functions such as buying groceries or gas when the community access is in Canada.
I cannot pry out of the Canada Border Services Agency which towns in Alaska qualify as "trans-border." I imagine Hyder does because its only road out is into Canada.
Go to http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/menu-eng.html for more information.
The difficulties of travel in the time of this pandemic has exhausted people. Travel writers are throwing up their hands, and I surely am one of them.
I say the best thing is for Alaskans to discover their own state. There's so much to see and do here.
These safety procedures are to save lives and make sure the virus doesn't change our way of life forever.
So travel safe, get immunized, wear a mask, and practice social distancing, and hopefully soon we'll all enjoy the world we knew once, once again.