LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i’s mayor and County Council released $2 million in emergency funds for Kaua‘i response to COVID-19 on Wednesday, the same day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic of the virus and the state Department of Health said the number of people self-monitoring in Hawai‘i crept up to 41.
The Kaua‘i County Council approved the emergency bill Wednesday that helps prepare the county for the potential that COVID-19 will be confirmed on the island, but the money can also be used to cover any unexpected expenses related to any type of disaster.
These funds will be used by the county administration as they see fit to cover expenditures like personal protective equipment, labor loss, isolation of groups and individuals, overtime due to workers covering for those who are recommended to stay home if they are sick, and purchases to ensure the health and safety of the public and the county workers.
“This is a unique situation, a new virus that has reached pandemic levels,” said Kawakami on Wednesday while signing the emergency bill.
“The reason why we asked for two million — and there is no exact science behind this — (is that the money will help us) respond and be proactively prepared for this COVID-19.”
Kawakami said should a virus outbreak occur on Kaua‘i, he expects county workers will be having to do overtime hours to make sure essential services continue — services like trash pickup and public safety.
He also said he doesn’t anticipate asking for more money to be released.
“That’s why we did the two million. Its good for a 60-day period, but like I said, this is something that the whole world is still learning about. It’s constantly evolving,” he said.
“I have to say the challenging part of this situation is that we are really pioneers. As far as being able to respond to COVID-19, we need to have things lined up.”
Councilmember Felicia Cowden praised the emergency release of funds, highlighting the Grand Princess cruise ship, which made port calls to Nawiliwili, Honolulu, Lahaina and Hilo late last month.
She said, while it’s a great first step, she’s ready to hear about more ways to further protect the public.
“It is really important not to be exposing our people. Better safe than sorry,” Cowden said.
“This money is basically providing for our county workers to be managing and doing the right job. But the bigger issue is the broader public. How do we keep everybody protected and how can we encourage businesses and individual to get smarter with using Clorox wipes or whatever they need on cash registers or their public areas?” she asked.
DOH reported it is capable of doing testing for up to 250 individuals per week for COVID-19. Results can be ready within 24 to 48 hours after a sample is collected.
One recent visitor — an individual from Canada — tested positive for COVID-19 upon his return to Canada, and DOH said Wednesday that it “has reached out to its federal partners” but has not received any information on the individual as of Wednesday.
DOH advises people who think they may have symptoms of COVID-19 to contact their health-care provider in advance of going to a medical facility.
w Tell the provider about symptoms and any recent travel. Health-care providers will discuss any possible cases of COVID-19 with DOH to determine if testing is needed;
w Consider utilizing tele-health services, if available;
w Avoid traveling or leaving home if you are sick, except for visiting the doctor after contacting them in advance.
Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.