Hawaii is dropping its testing and quarantine rules for vaccinated domestic travelers in two weeksBy CALEB JONES Associated PressJune 24, 2021, 11:57 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHONOLULU — Hawaii will drop its testing and quarantine rules for fully vaccinated domestic travelers in two weeks.Gov. David Ige said Thursday the state will drop the current travel restrictions for vaccinated U.S. mainland travelers on July 8.Those using the quarantine exemption must upload their vaccination cards to a state website and also bring a hard copy while traveling.The governor said he expects the state will reach a 60% vaccination rate among all residents by that time, a milestone he had previously set for allowing more vaccination travel exemptions.Travelers must be two weeks beyond their final vaccine shot to be eligible.Officials recently announced a set of incentives for people to get vaccinated, including airline tickets and restaurant discounts.“While incentives are nice, the most important thing is that the more our people are vaccinated, we will see better health outcomes and we will get back to normal sooner,” Ige said.Restaurants will also be able to seat up to 75% of their capacity on July 8, although social distancing rules between tables will remain, the governor said. Some restaurants have said they cannot increase their capacity with the current distancing rules.People will still be required to wear masks when gathering indoors. Masks are not required outdoors.When the state reaches a 70% vaccination rate, the governor said he will drop all pandemic-related restrictions.”Case counts are coming down,” the governor said. “People are getting vaccinated, and there are fewer and fewer people in our community who continue to be at risk of getting infected.”Ige added that gathering sizes will increase from 10 people to 25 people while indoors and from 25 to 75 people outside.People who are not vaccinated will continue to be required to get a negative coronavirus test before travel to Hawaii.Hawaii has had among the lowest COVID-19 infection and death rates in the nation since the start of the pandemic. The state has required testing or quarantine for most arriving travelers.The state’s tourism-based economy was decimated, and Hawaii has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the United States.Island mayors joined the governor and said their respective counties would be ready for the changes.“We’ll be ready on July 8,” said Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, adding that it seemed like the island was already nearing its capacity for visitors.“It looks like the economy is roaring back,” Kawakami said. “But for our mom and pops and our restaurants, it’s good news that they’ll be able to add more tables, add more chairs and serve more customers, because they really need that.”
An invasive species known as the yellow crazy ant has been eradicated from a remote U.S. atoll in the PacificBy CALEB JONES Associated PressJune 23, 2021, 11:19 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleHONOLULU — An invasive species known as the yellow crazy ant has been eradicated from a remote U.S. atoll in the Pacific.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Wednesday that the ants have been successfully removed from Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.The ants stalk seabirds on the uninhabited atoll and prevented nesting on about 70 acres of land.“This is the first time an invasive ant species has been eradicated on such a large land area in the U.S,” said Kate Toniolo, superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, in a statement. “To ensure the eradication was successful, the teams have been monitoring, searching, and surveying for yellow crazy ants.”For about a decade, the ants have threatened the seabirds by swarming their nests — and anything else on the ground. The ants spray formic acid on the birds, causing injuries including blindness and even death, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.Volunteers and federal workers comprised so-called Crazy Ant Strike Teams that experimented with baits and other techniques to get rid of the pests. After the teams killed off the yellow crazy ants, two dogs trained to sniff out the species were brought in to search the grounds. The dogs sniffed nearly 120 miles without finding any ants, according to federal officials.“While the mission of the Crazy Ant Strike Team is complete, the (U.S. Fish and Wildlife) Service will continue to focus on habitat restoration, preventing the spread of other invasive species,” said Stefan Kropidlowski, deputy superintendent for the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. “For now, we celebrate that the refuge is once again a safe haven for the amazing seabirds that call this incredible place home.”Johnston Atoll is a refuge for tens of thousands of seabirds from 15 different species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It’s home to the world’s largest colony of red-tailed tropicbirds and is the only seabird habitat in over 570,000 square miles (nearly 1.5 million square kilometers) of open ocean.The yellow crazy ant is native to Southeast Asia but has been unintentionally introduced to other parts of the Pacific, including Hawaii.Yellow crazy ants “are a widespread and extremely harmful invasive ant. They have spread throughout all the main Hawaiian Islands and cause significant ecological harm to plants and animals, like the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bee and nesting birds,” said Sheldon Plentovich, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Coastal Program Coordinator.Plentovich said the ants have not made their way to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but they “are very good hitchhikers and we are vigilant about biosecurity and monitoring for early detection within the monument.”Plentovich said crazy ants got their name because of their fast and erratic movements, especially when disturbed.Johnston Atoll is one of the most isolated places on Earth and part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. It’s about 820 miles (1,320 km) southwest of Honolulu.