As we continue with confusing and differing rules by island, including Kauai’s complete shutdown this week, each island seems to be on a collision course with the others. It’s a good reminder that what happens on one island can impact all and send a confusing message to the public that is bad for everyone. Plus, the current rules around testing and quarantine lie somewhere between difficult and impossible in terms of visitors’ ability to easily comply.
Visitors are left wondering if Hawaii is ready for travelers or not.
Hawaii’s issues were compounded twice just recently. First when Gov. Ige suddenly changed policies to require that all mainland arrivals without proof of negative test on landing go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine (regardless of whether or not a negative result was subsequently produced). Previously they could quarantine just until those results were presented. Then again when the governor surprisingly reversed his prior thinking and allowed Kauai to go in a completely different direction this week, with a mandatory 14-day quarantine regardless of testing.
The risks of quarantine due to the inability to get test results are too much for most. Many feel the state needs a well thought out plan that includes both pre-travel and on-arrival testing. Both Lt. Governor Josh Green and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell are proposing just that, with rapid antigen testing on arrival. The Hawaii House of Representatives’ COVID committee agrees. There’s been no word from Governor Ige so far but something is definitely about to change.
Stakeholders are livid.
This week’s Kauai shutdown poses bigger problems for the entire state. When one island can make its own decisions, and there is no unified statewide plan, it can wreak havoc across such a small state. Cancellations are now up significantly across all islands and future bookings are down, just since Kauai’s plan went into effect.
Bellwether Hawaiian Airlines believes that the most recent, rapid-fire Safe Travels program changes and inconsistent policies for each island are resulting in confusion and are counter-productive to the program’s intentions including the well-being of Hawaii.
The Kauai Chamber of Commerce is also not in favor and wrote, “the 14-day quarantine meant a sudden and unexpected shut down for many chamber members, and could lead to the permanent closure of many of our small businesses, putting members of our community out of work.”
Prior Honolulu mayor and hospitality spokesperson Mufi Hannemann indicated that the travel industry is trying to work with Kauai’s mayor to reach some type of resolution. Mufi is opposed to any quarantine, especially a 14-day one, which now far exceeds the most recent CDC recommendations of 7 days with testing. He foresees huge issues with furloughs and job losses on the horizon.
Kauai’s financial meltdown.
With visitors canceling travel, tangible evidence of Kauai’s new 14-day quarantine that started Wednesday is already hitting home. Come Monday, the Grand Hyatt Kauai will again close after reopening just a few weeks ago, which means that many hundreds of people will again be unemployed, with no relief. At the peak, the hotel employs close to 1,000. The Sheraton will also close for the foreseeable future and with that, its hundreds of employees will be out of work. To say how serious this is, here’s an interesting analogy. On Kauai, road traffic is associated with the working hours of the hospitality industry. When workers get off of their shift at 3 pm, traffic markedly picks up. And when that industry shutters, we have massive unemployment and no traffic. Period.
Airlines have cut flight schedules.
Almost all mainland flights to and from Kauai have stopped. The only daily mainland nonstop, for now, is the essential service from Los Angeles on Delta Airlines. There is a smattering of once-weekly flights too, but those may or may not even operate. And the airlines obviously have no idea how or when to plan for a resumption in service.
Restaurants and activities shutting down too on Kauai.
We don’t have any list of what will or won’t remain open and it is really anyone’s guess at this point. Many businesses had recently reopened before this week’s closure. Those who believe the 14-day quarantine will be short may again try to make a run without closing down, while others could succumb in the interim. There has been no word from Kauai’s mayor as to what to expect, or when.
Resort bubbles: you say it’s an epic failure.
What do we need to say beyond your hundreds and hundreds of comments saying no way in he** would you get locked at an overpriced Kauai hotel, wearing an ankle bracelet. Kauai’s mayor indicated that there are now five Kauai resorts approved to operate resort bubbles, with several more in the pipeline. Those now include the Kauai Mariott in Lihue. An interesting question is whether the beach in front of Kalapaki Bay could become part of their COVID bubble?
The bigger picture is unemployment and much worse.
As you may know, Hawaii has the highest rate of unemployment in the USA. And that is just the beginning of the economic pain here. The loss of tax revenue to the state will have a huge and long-lasting impact across the board, from road repairs and infrastructure maintenance to public areas and all facilities.
Far worse, however, is that suicides from earlier this year are still fresh in our minds when there were four unrelated suicides on Kauai in one week. It is widely believed that those were at least in part related to the COVID crisis and the collapse of the island’s economy. That may of course compounded by other issues including substance abuse. These were all young men under age 40, per Kauai’s police chief.
A statewide plan is needed for visitors.
Lt. Governor Josh Green and Honolulu Mayor Caldwell can finally agree. Green said that despite Kauai’s limited medical resources, it actually has more capacity than what has been reported. Also, Kauai’s medical system is supported by and is a part of Honolulu’s larger Hawaii Pacific Health facilities.
The state’s House Committee on COVID-19 concurs with Green and Caldwell that arrivals who tested within 72-hour of departure be exempted from quarantine when they obtain a negative rapid test result upon arrival here in Hawaii and show a negative Trusted Partner pre-travel testing result. “This solution, in partnership with the stakeholders who will support it, is a good plan for this current time.” That according to the public health and strategy and communications subcommittees which are headed by Hawaii’s largest health insurer, HMSA, and its largest health/hospital provider, Hawaii Pacific Health.
Kauai’s Kawakami on the other hand is hanging hopes that vaccines are on the short-term horizon that will provide ansswers and help alleviate the concerns. We fear he is far too optimistic in that regard, with both the long term effectiveness and the willingness of people to take a new vaccine still in question.
Has the Kauai Quarantine Changed Your Travel Plans to Other Islands? We are interested in your feedback. If you had a Kauai reservation, did you change to another island or cancel your Hawaii vacation entirely? If you were planning a Hawaii vacation to any of the islands, did the Kauai quarantine make you second guess your decision to come to Hawaii?
Here are excerpts from some of your many comments today:
“The current system is too “filled with landmines” for potential visitors.” (Kimo)
“With the constant rule changes we have crossed Hawaii off indefinitely. We love the islands, the culture and especially the people…the reckless politicians not so much.” (John T)
“Hawaii is not a cheap vacation, and I don’t want to risk being quarantined.” (Nancy W)
“The Kauai Quarantine had us abandon the island for the first time in 44 trips! We’ll be visiting Oahu, thank Mr. Mayor!” (Barbara M)
“Kauai closed down with literally no notice. Who wants to believe that the other islands won’t do the same.” (Michelle K)
Please add your thoughts.