Kauai Mayor, Derek Kawakami, has just asked Governor Ige to require a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to Kauai starting December 1. If approved, that would effectively shut down all vacation travel to the Garden Island and almost all flights. This comes as businesses have reopened including the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort only days ago.
Kawakami forwarded his proposal to temporarily pause the Garden Island’s participation in Hawaii’s Safe Travels pre-travel program. That would mean that with or without negative tests, all travelers would be required to go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days.
“We are facing alarming COVID-19 numbers on our island as well as across the nation. This is not just a tourist problem. Nearly half of our recent travel cases are Kauai residents who returned home. We know that a single, pre-travel test has not stopped the virus from reaching our island and we are saddened to report our first on-island death. We must take action to prevent the further spread of disease here.” (Derek Kawakami).
This on-again, off-again approach to allowing travel, and by what rules, however, is going to literally kill Kauai tourism, and with it the majority of employment on the island.
What will happen next?
The governor has placed himself in a very difficult situation. Early on, he allowed the mayors to make their own decisions regarding the handling of rules associated with COVID. He subsequently began taking back control. In the most recent instance, Kawakami proposed requiring arrivals to take a second test 72 hours after arrival and to be on quarantine for just the 3 days until that test. That proposal was not approved by the governor. Kauai’s mayor upped the ante further with today’s controversial proposal.
Kawakami further suggested that opting-out of Safe Travels would have the island remain on the Tier 4 level of restrictions. He said, “Opting out of the Safe Travels program would be independent of our tier system, which means we could stay in Tier 4 for a longer period of time. It makes no logical sense for us to move tiers while still allowing more travelers. We shouldn’t penalize our local people by restricting activities, such as youth sports, when that’s not the current source of infection.”
No one knows what Ige will decide, but he decidedly appears less inclined to allow island by island rules at this time. Could he just disallow this change or could he do something to change the rules again for the entire state? We simply don’t know.
Report from Kauai Health Department.
Kauai’s health officer said that “Since the launch of the single pre-travel testing program on October 15, we have confirmed 58 new cases and our first on-island death… We have not seen sustained community transmission in our county since July, so these cases are very concerning. It is clear that the Safe Travels program is not adequately protecting Kauai from an alarming rise in cases.”
Is Kauai unique or does Hawaii need a statewide approach to travel during COVID?
The mayor said he doesn’t purport “To know how to best manage the other counties or the state as a whole. But our small, rural community here on Kaua‘i needs to take a pause from an influx of travelers, and once again gain control of this virus as we had for so many months before. I will gladly repeal the rule once we achieve this goal.”
What are your thoughts?