LIHU‘E — Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami announced three new COVID-19-related rules Wednesday, alongside the state’s announcement that Hawaii is now starting contact testing for the virus.
That means opening up COVID-19 testing to those who have had any close contact with someone with the virus — showing symptoms or not. Close contacts and tests will be determined and ordered by the Hawai‘i Department of Health and/or licensed health care providers and conducted by the Hawai‘i State Lab and/or private labs.
Members of the general public who are asymptomatic and not deemed close contacts will not be tested at this time.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard chastised the DOH and state officials in a social media post on on Wednesday for not taking these steps sooner, and suggested Hawai‘i’s state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park and state Health Director Bruce Anderson both be fired for “failure to take necessary actions to protect” Hawaii residents from the coronavirus.
“Dr. Park and Bruce Anderson have stubbornly resisted or delayed every action needed to contain and prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Gabbard said Wednesday. “Anderson and Park are either grossly out of touch or extremely negligent.”
In support of her call to fire Anderson and Park, Gabbard pointed to what she says was delayed implementation of traveler quarantines, delayed suspension of cruise ships and stay at home orders and delayed implementation of contact testing.
On Kaua‘i, golf courses and vacation rentals are preparing to close on Saturday, April 10. Kawakami also announced Wednesday that all employees of food service establishments that sell prepared foods, groceries and medicine must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth, also starting Saturday.
“Vacation Rentals are not supervised in the same way as hotels, where it is easier to distribute information about the enforcement of the quarantine,” Kawkami said in a Wednesday public address. “Most recent data on incoming flights are showing a slight rise in visitor numbers. Further, some vacation rentals are still actively advertising, including promoting themselves as COVID-19 retreats for people from the mainland. This is wrong. It is dangerous for our community. And it cannot continue.”
Any visitor currently staying in a vacation rental will be allowed to complete their stay but they are not allowed to extend their current reservation, Kawakami said. Once these visitors vacate their Vacation Rental unit, vacation rentals must cease to operate.
Kawakami expressed appreciation for the public’s patience and feedback on the stay-at-home order on Wednesday, saying the goal is to balance safety and the ability to conduct “essential business”.
“We are constantly re-evaluating the rules to ensure your health and safety, first and foremost,” Kawakami said. “But secondary to your health and safety, we also want to allow people to be able to conduct their most essential business as best we can, without compromising health and safety.”
Wednesday, Kauai’s number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases remained at 19, including 11 individuals that have either recovered or returned to the mainland. The remaining eight active cases are residents, five are in home isolation, two are in isolation at a facility, and one remains in isolation in the hospital.
All but one case has been confirmed to be travel-related, and the source of infection for that case continues to be investigated by the Department of Health.
Statewide, the COVID-19 death toll reached six on Wednesday, with one new death being investigated on Maui. In total, as of Wednesday DOH reported 435 cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii, with 85 of those cases already released from isolation. The number of people tested for the virus reached 15,566 on Wednesday.
DOH also reports of the statewide total 2,773 hospital beds available, 47% of them are in use, or 1,304. Of the total 338 ICU beds available, 97 are in use; of the 535 ventilators in Hawaii, 65 are in use.
Visitors continue to come to Hawaii, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority, which reported Wednesday a total of 654 arrivals statewide at airports. Of that number 160 were visitors, according to HTA. At Lihu‘e Airport, a total of 18 people arrived on Wednesday; six of them were crewmembers, three were residents and nine were visitors. Mandatory 14-day, self-quarantine is required for all passengers arriving from out of state and also covers interisland travelers.