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Group wants double testing

LIHU‘E — A committee of doctors and community leaders is considering a proposal to Gov. David Ige to test a tourist-entry system that would require visitors to Kauai to be tested for COVID-19 before they depart and again after they arrive, with a five- or six-day quarantine in between.

The Kauai-specific system would differ from a protocol announced by Ige last week under which visitors can produce evidence they have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of arrival in Hawaii or undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Ige announced that the new approach, intended to safely resume Hawaii tourism, will go into effect Aug. 1. Currently, visitors must agree to a 14-day quarantine, but there is no testing requirement.

The two-test, Kauai-specific procedure emerged Wednesday from a Zoom meeting of members of the Kauai COVID-19 Discussion Group and Lt. Gov. Josh Green. The different protocol for Kauai, said Dr. Lee Evslin, an organizer of the committee, would assure tourists that their Hawaii destination would be more certainly COVID-free than the rest of the state in return for accepting the need for the two tests and a week in quarantine.

The COVID committee originally proposed a statewide two-test system in a report released June 18.

The meeting of the committee with Green came the morning after Evslin revealed new figures showing that Alaska, which introduced a one-test option like Ige’s on June 5, has seen exponential growth in new cases in the days since. It is not clear, however, whether Alaska’s caseload spike has been caused by increased numbers of tourists or brought on by behavior of local residents after statewide shutdown provisions were ended.

Meanwhile, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said Wednesday that planning to reopen Hawaii began several weeks ago, “when our COVID situation across the state and nation was stabilizing.” Recent developments, Kawakami said, mean that “the situation on the mainland has shifted. It would be prudent for all of us to consider the increased risk of trans-Pacific travel under current circumstances.”

A spokesperson for the mayor did not respond to a request to clarify whether Kawakami was urging Ige to reconsider his decision. Kawakami said he was unaware of the meeting of Green and the COVID committee but that “first and foremost, I appreciate the passion and effort of the Kauai COVID group.”

The Kauai-specific test and quarantine system, which has not yet been presented to Ige, has little chance of being adopted. But it underscores the concern inong the medical community over trends in many states of ever-increasing caseloads which have led to renewed restaurant, bar and beach closures and other limitations that were relaxed in a rush to reopen many states to business as usual.

As of Wednesday, Hawaii has recorded 926 COVID-19 cases, with 38 on Kauai, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. None of the state’s 18 deaths was on Kauai.

The national uptrend in new cases and deaths has been particularly pronounced in California, the single largest source of tourists who visit Hawaii.

On Tuesday, Evslin circulated data on social media that he said came from an Alaska district health officer. The data showed that Alaska went from 40 active cases in May to 400 at the end of June. The figures appeared consistent with data posted to the COVID-19 website of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The official state figures show a marked increase in COVID-19 cases in Alaska starting on June 5, when the state changed its tourist-entry policy to allow visitors to substitute proof of a single negative test in lieu of a 14-day quarantine. In his announcement last week, Ige said Hawaii officials had been coordinating planning with their Alaska counterparts.

Evslin said the Kauai COVID committee praised the extensive work Green and Ige have done to try to plan for safe reopening of Hawaii to tourists. Evslin conceded that adopting a two-test protocol statewide could collide with practical limitations on the number of tests the state can conduct.

“The chances of success are pretty low,” Evslin said of the prospect Ige would accept the committee’s new recommendation, “but the chance of failure, as we’ve seen particularly in Alaska, is pretty dismal.”

Green said that, as a practical matter, testing all tourists after they arrive would add 10,000 to 15,000 tests daily to the state’s existing capacity of 5,300, all but assuring that testing arriving visitors could threaten the availability of tests to local residents. Green said the plan he developed with Ige is likely to permit 10 to 15 positive arriving cases per day to escape detection.

The Kauai COVID committee’s report, titled “A Plan for Safely Reopening Hawaii: Kauai as a Model,” left unanswered question of how testing and quarantine costs of would be paid and how much incoming visitors would pay.

In addition, Green said, “the added quarantine would mean no one would travel to Hawaii—period. If the proponents are OK with 22 percent unemployment, mass poverty and closure of our hospitals and schools, then I suppose it would be an option.”

Despite that, Evslin stood his ground. “It could be an interesting scenario,” he said, “if we try to make Kauai nearly COVID-free and worked with wealthy landowners and others (to designate) a special hotel to handle people during the week-long quarantine.

“What we (would be) advertising is we are doing the best in the country to create a COVID-free vacation spot. That will make this unique.” Even on Kauai, however, case numbers have been increasing in the last two or three weeks, though at a slower rate than Oahu, in particular. The Kauai spike, according to county officials, is largely due to a cluster of three families in the Kalaheo area that grew out of a social event.

JoAnn Yukimura, the former mayor and County Council member, said she has not given up on trying to get Ige to modify his decision. Yukimiura was another of the organizers of the Kauai COVID committee. “Nothing is a done deal until it’s done,” she said. “The governor said that things could change and I think we’re seeing it change dramatically on the mainland.

“I know the governor has the welfare of the people at front and center, so if he sees what’s happening, I am hopeful that he and his team will re-look at their plan to be sure it will be safe.”

Yukimura said that, after the meeting with Green, the group conceded that there are “practical problems” that mean implementing a Kauai-specific system would be difficult.

27 Comments
  1. Westside Resident July 2, 2020 3:57 am Reply

    Obviously the leadership has abandoned tourism. Because this approach will deter most visitors. That’s because tourism isn’t essential in their view. The new reality is that we no longer have tourism as a pillar of the economy on Kauai.

    Out with the old, in with the new. What is new is an era of wealthy mainlanders who will abandon the mainland for this supposedly Covid-free island and pursue living here.

    This is not a bad thing, new money will arrive with them, housing prices will increase and so so will the property tax revenue.

    Cocoon living comes with a tradeoff. Seems the decision has been made. Kauai will be safe, at any price.


    1. Nowhere Man July 2, 2020 12:18 pm Reply

      If there is a large die-off:
      1) jobs are not filled (the employees are dead or suffering)
      2) Safety is compromised when first responders are depleted
      3) Hospitals can’t cope with normal issues when spending resources fighting this
      4) Visitors are scared off in the long run as they deem the island a contagion
      5) Housing plummets as there are extra houses and no one wanting them

      Or, we can do what needs to be done in the short term and have long term prosperity. No one claims this is an easy thing, or that some people won’t suffer. But the greater good demands action now.


  2. kauaiboy July 2, 2020 6:58 am Reply

    OMG! Get over it. This virus is slowing down for no one. Before this is all done, 1/4 of Kauai’s residents will be affected. 2/3 of those will be asymptomatic, So 5000 will end up feeling sick. Of those, 500 will end up in the hospitals. We would have been better off if those hospitalizations had started 2 months ago and trickled in. Now we are waiting for the inevitable onslaught. When it comes, it will happen more quickly and the hospitals will be overwhelmed. Anyone who believes that Kauai can wait Covid-19 out until it disappears is kidding themselves.

    By keeping a lid on the island (NO sane tourist are going to pay for a test before departing and then come to Kauai to be quarantined for 5 or 6 days and then tested AGAIN at their expense) , ad infinitum ad nauseum, we will all go broke and bankrupt and the government will still want their taxes or they will issue liens and the banks will start foreclosing on those who can no longer pay their mortgage. Watch what happens when the “funny money” runs out and there are no tourist dollars to pick up the slack. Civil unrest will begin fomenting and people will go to the government with their hats in their hands but the government will be unable to help them. Then the churches and NGOs will run out of food. We will be all be eating “Meals Ready To Eat” supplied by the National Guard and many of us will be living at the beach parks wondering where to steal the next loaf of bread.

    Come to your senses, safeguard the most vulnerable and OPEN KAUAI FOR TOURISM DOLLARS.


  3. Everythingisawesome July 2, 2020 7:13 am Reply

    This. Is. Absurd!

    Alaska has shown that one test isn’t good enough. Dr. Evslin proposes two tests. Is two enough? Why not test every day? If a test is submitted by every tourist, every night right before bedtime, we should have a result by noon the next day which leaves at least 7 hours of daylight for ziplines, horseback rides and ATV tours. Hotel doors can be programmed not to unlock unless a negative test result is returned for each occupant in the room. Maybe a test machine in each room or something integrated into the door lock. Ground floor hotel rooms will be reserved for only HI residents as those rooms would be easier to escape from. If cost is an issue, we can partner with wealthy landowners and they will pay for it.

    I don’t think tourists will mind.


    1. Somethingislacking July 2, 2020 12:13 pm Reply

      Thank you for volunteering to pay for all that and to invent and implement it!


  4. PrincessPeach July 2, 2020 7:31 am Reply

    There has been lots of blame heaped on trans-Pacific travel for the recent outbreaks of COVID-19. How much trans-Pacific travel has there been? Virtually zero. Everyone is assuming airports and s the virus spreaders, but they are wrong.

    You know what nobody is looking at? Hospitals and drive thru test centers. These facilities are where MOST of the diagnosed cases of symptomatic COVID-19 are. If one were to put together a ‘heat’ map of where the COVID cases are on the mainland, the hospitals and drive thru test centers would be on fire! Why can nobody piece this together?? How many cases would there be in Alaska hospitals right now if they had shut them down a month ago? That’s right; none. Why do you think one of the measures of how well a community is doing against the virus is by how many COVID patients are in the hospital? It’s because that’s where all the cases are! Du-duh! No cases in the hospital = no cases. How many cases would there be in Alaska hospitals right now if they had shut the hospitals down a month ago? That’s right; none.

    Look at California. In Riverside county, public health officer Saruwatari has stated that, ““It’s the family barbecues. It’s the having some friends over because it’s been a long time since you’ve seen them, and it’s that close contact with people that’s really leading … to the increased cases that we’re seeing now.” In response, the county is closing the bars, and restaurants, and requiring a negative COVID test from all Hawaii and New Jersey tourists within 72 hours of arrival…when clearly they should be closing their hospitals and drive thru test centers!

    Mayor Derek, please consider what is prudent, be forward thinking, and shut down our hospitals and drive thru test centers before we start discovering more cases. Send a clear message to the virus, “You are not welcome here!”. When the mainlanders see how effectively we have controlled the virus, they will come here and never want to leave! Your message when you run for Governor can be, “Kept our hospitals COVID free, since 7/3”. Or maybe just, “COVID free since 7/3”.

    Maybe do an Instagram poll and let your followers decide.


  5. Uncleaina July 2, 2020 8:32 am Reply

    There’s no example of a place that opened up that hasn’t spiked. Sure Iges method will lessen the effect for a while, but rapidly we’ll see community spread brought in by tourists. The Evslin idea is MUCH better, and we do have the ability to locally make our own rules (like the curfew). There’s not even more ventilators on Kauai than before = 14. Don’t you realize how fast these will fill up? Double test is the only way this could work. Stop saying we lack capacity etc, no what we lack is what we always lack in Hawaii- a thoughtful, well executed plan.


  6. Yaffa Rosnes July 2, 2020 8:34 am Reply

    Perhaps we could limit the amount of visitors so we don’t tax the system, and the amount of tests we have available, get the “bad-guys” Airline industry-Hawaiian, United, American, Delta, Southwest to cooperate.


  7. Coolio July 2, 2020 8:42 am Reply

    Ok so….We have no cases for a month and then suddenly a spike in cases from a “community event?” Not possible…Just call it what it is…Travelers brought it back to Kauai when they reopened travel…The math just doesn’t follow the community spread theory…That is the danger we will always have since they are allowing travelers to come…It just didn’t mysteriously reappear among an island that was in lockdown…It would be cool if the government would just tell the truth…Good or bad…


    1. Frosty July 2, 2020 12:12 pm Reply

      Or it was passed on from shipping people. Or it was slowly traveling through asymptomatic people for a while. Perhaps the government doesn’t know.

      But you do you.


  8. Kathy Deutsch July 2, 2020 8:48 am Reply

    The way this article reads, Kauai only wants well-heeled visitors who can afford double testing AND quarantine in-between testing.

    That is not the Kauai I have loved for years. No aloha for the middle class.


  9. Joe Public July 2, 2020 10:10 am Reply

    They need to at least follow New York and keep the 14 day quarantine on people traveling from states that have high Covid Cases, like New York, California, Florida, Arizona


  10. What? July 2, 2020 10:29 am Reply

    Why do these so called experts completely ignore the fact that testing has just recently been increased by 10 fold over the last 30 days. Of course there will be more positives! Bus riders can now get a free test on Kauai. The old saying, Lies, Damn Lies and statistics. This current level of island testing should have been started months ago and why did they only start allowing antibody testing with out a doctors note a couple of weeks ago. They are still pushing the ridiculous narrative that there has only been 40 cases on Kauai. Yeah right


  11. Larry Gill July 2, 2020 12:26 pm Reply

    Wow. We are going to be so done with Kauai. Never thought I’d say that. We own 6 weeks of timeshares on Kauai. Love the place. We work hard for our vacations. Never going to be quarantined, and we’re really leaning towards not taking the initial test for COVID19. There are other places for us to vacation. Sorry Kauai. Mahalo for the many great years. We hope you get your act together. I feel sorry for all the unemployment and suicides that are happening on the island.


    1. clown July 2, 2020 10:58 pm Reply

      laughable


    2. Jerry Fin July 5, 2020 2:51 am Reply

      We will miss you so much!

      Who was that again?


  12. WANTED: Studied Strategist July 2, 2020 12:27 pm Reply

    you are all very passionate people. meditation is good for grounding. breath is life. breathe.

    please work together and abandon us vs them mentalities. dont be taken by shallow energy sapping points of view. its useless.

    remember, non quarantine travel is allowed inter-island. This point is not mentioned 1x in the article or comments. That is confusing but not unexpected.

    The plan from this covid group and Evisly is pretty pointed and certainly conflated with “wealthy landowners.” >> “if we try to make Kauai nearly COVID-free and worked with wealthy landowners and others (to designate) a special hotel…”

    Ok, I get it you’d like Zuck to pay for it? It being what exactly? Buying out a hotel to keep people (some will be sick) quarantined together? Yes it is “a very interesting scenario” Mr Evislyn. Studied strategist would help this covid group.

    PLEASE MAYOR, NEVER PLACATE FOR POLITIC… no need to thank half hatched schemes. Keep up the good work otherwise.


  13. TPK July 2, 2020 2:51 pm Reply

    Oceanit announced today that a 5 minute spit test will be available August 1. In 1972 Kauai passed the comprehesive zoning ordinance. It was a way to create the tourist industry we used to have (February 2020). Why you ask, did the powers that be, decide that we needed tourism? Cause Pineapple failed and Sugar was on the downtrend. People needed money to buy houses , send their kids to college. Tourism was the least evil solution. If someone can come up with a better option I bet everyone here would like to hear it. So far, what my limited brain can see, is that Gig workers are eyeing Kauai. Little Covid, Nice Island, Fast Internet. But that will not supply the jobs that our Kauai work force needs. It sure would be nice to keep out Covid, Keep our Island traffic relatively low and make some money. Maybe the tourists will just mail us money and not come? Or retrain our work force to be gig workers.


  14. David Katz July 2, 2020 6:46 pm Reply

    Here’s the harsh reality. If we stay shut down, we’ll stay healthy but go broke. If we reopen with Ige’s plan, we will see case numbers skyrocket because we have zero immunity here. We will then shut down AGAIN, but with hundreds of very sick people. So the choice would be shut down and well vs shut down and sick.

    Lee Evslin’s double testing plan might allow at least some business to resume with a manageable number of cases. So painful as it seems, it may be the least bad out of three bad choices.


  15. Spike July 2, 2020 7:45 pm Reply

    More and more reported cases of the virus, but no one is dying, welcome to herd immunity, which is what’s supposed to happen.

    Zero to minor symptoms, yay you have a great immune system and now you have developed natural immunity. congratulations !

    Even better you won’t be using dangerous drugs and their dreaded side effects.

    But since you are OK, can we turn our backs on you and instead look out for the elderly with pure-existing long term diseases, AKA, end of life diseases and taking too many end of life Prescription drugs. Saw an old friend today, looked frail and worn out, difficulty walking, he admitted to 14 prescription drugs a day.

    I hope he doesn’t get the flu virus…he looks ready to die and they’ll blame it on the virus, when he has lived much of his life committing self abuse, with junk food, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

    Seems like they blame the poor flu Covid virus for just about everybody dying, when it is living outside the laws of nature that too often turns off a life.


    1. finally July 2, 2020 11:02 pm Reply

      finally someone who is logical


    2. Spake July 5, 2020 2:53 am Reply

      You realize you just admitted that you think your old friend should have died a long time ago?


  16. Kauaidoug July 2, 2020 7:48 pm Reply

    In the last few days I’ve been noticing what other places like Kaua’i are doing testing before and on arrival seems popular.
    I am a tour guide with underlying conditions so I’m a goner if… What do I do? What does the parent do for sending his kid to school this Fall? We all are uncertain and yes I am fearful sometimes when I get caught in the what if merry go round. We limit tourists, we test em, we charge them but we can only do that if we are indeed Covid19 free and I hope to goodness no one is expecting that. WE CANT EVEN TRACE WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!

    Ok ,then we isolate all the people with underlying , there goes half the population between kapuna, asthma, high blood pressure and oh yes diabetes. Now the rest of the population just has to hope they are lucky with getting Covid19 with no lasting effects. We haven’t even talked about the presyptomatic spreader-tourist or someone who never shows signs, making them spreaders putting typhoid Mary to shame. See how easy it is to get on the merry go round?
    I am hoping that technology is going to bale us out of this. A fast easy, reliable test is what we need and I know research is going on everywhere in the world to get better tests and the holy grail, the vaccine.
    Seems like man has been his own worst enemy concerning Covid19 so I’m relying on the better angels among us to come to our rescue. In the meantime I will protect you by wearing my mask, wash my hands and try to respect my fellow Kauaians.
    If I mention wearing /not wearing masks that goes down a whole nother rabbit that will only wind me up on another merry go round.


  17. BuffytheVirusSlayer July 3, 2020 7:13 am Reply

    If Kauai keeps closed to tourism, it will destroy what little there is of a middle class on this island.

    This is a coup by the elites to turn Kauai into their own private resort.

    Yes, COVID cases are going up on the mainland. But COVID deaths are not. Young people are not getting sick. Treatment is improving. A new study just came out today that hydrochloroquine is, in fact, effective if given early in the infection. This was reported on CNN.

    Open up, already. Before our economy is destroyed completely.


    1. Humpty July 5, 2020 2:54 am Reply

      That’s right, damn those people who will die, or our long term reputation. I need more money!


  18. Steve Farlo July 3, 2020 2:16 pm Reply

    My Kauai short term rental condo has been sitting un-rentable since March. But I agree that Kauai needs to be protected. I like the idea for 2 tests and a short quarantine between them. If tests are pooled the number and cost would be a fraction of individual tests. Go for it Kauai and be a model for safe, responsible tourism. Aloha!


  19. drsurf July 4, 2020 6:19 pm Reply

    A shut down or severe diminishement of the economy which is visitor based.
    How will those affected eat, pay rent etc.
    This temporary assistance is fine but will end.
    Not everyone is retired or has a govt job.


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