LIHU‘E – Since Mayor Derek Kawakami signed the first emergency proclamation relating to COVID-19 on March 4, life has been different for business owners and residents on Kaua‘i.
And though Gov. David Ige’s August 1 plan to reopen the state to trans-Pacific travel could bring back some more business to the island, several residents recently echoed concerns already voiced about the safety of Hawai‘i residents when that happens.
At Scotty’s Music House in Lihu‘e, manager Kawika Jamieson said they’ve reduce hours of operation to four days a week, and with the unchanging flow of bills, he and his team are looking forward to the potential of welcoming more visitors to Kaua‘i in August, and to business bouncing back a bit.
“I think it’s a good thing, but (only) as long as we are safe,” Jamieson said. “Here on Kaua‘i, as a community, we have a good understanding of taking care of one another. (The important part is) getting people from the Mainland to understand that they got to take care of others too, it’s not a one way street.”
Jamieson said the music house has been more fortunate than other businesses in the community because they’re benefiting from a stay-at-home order side-effect — more people are picking up instruments as ways to pass the time while they’re social distancing.
“People (are coming) in to buy instruments. They are stuck at home or they have a lot of kids…the parents would say ‘Lets get you on a piano’ or ‘Lets get you playing the ukulele,’” said Jamieson.
At home, Jamieson said his family has become more tight-knit over the past few months of COVID-10 emergency orders, and he’s been learning new things, as well.
“I got into more (DIY) do it yourself projects just like everybody else, it helps me understand and appreciate things, “ said Jamieson, noting the best part of the past few months — apart from the Spam and Portuguese sausage he’s been putting away — has been spending more time with his wife and his ohana, while getting more creative.
“We are little bit more tighter with money, but we are a little bit more closer with our family and a little bit more connected to with our community,” said Jamieson.
Melina Obar, a mom and essential worker at North Shore General Store said the biggest change she’s seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the use of face masks.
“The challenges I face are dealing with difficult people who weren’t happy with what was going on,” said Obar. “People who don’t want to deal with wearing a face mask or have a bad attitude at my work place.”
She continued: “I do get to spend more time at home, which means more time with baby and the island is not as busy as it was before the pandemic.”
Kimberly Busch-French, owner of Kauai Art &Frame in Hanam‘aulu said she’s seen Kaua‘i come together as a community in the past few months.
“I feel more a part of the Kaua‘i Community. We have a really good, strong Ohana here,” said Busch-French. “I feel that everybody has pitched in on a heart level to support each other in making it through this difficult time.”
Busch-French is hesitant to reopen the transpacific travel in August, and said she’d like to see more careful rules regarding testing and quarantine when the islands do reopen.
“Reopening. I think it’s a little scary because we worked so hard to do a good job with controlling the pandemic,” said Busch-French. “It’s frightening to think we might lose that progress because it’s really difficult to tell whether people are going to be spreading it or not. Maybe double test just-in-case and watch to see how our numbers do. You know we can’t afford to get overwhelmed, we are so small.”
With a loss of tourists, Busch-French has gotten creative by personalizing her service to her clients.
“We are on Yelp that’s it. We call people, do things by appointment and work with people over the phone,” said Busch-French.
While residents have mixed emotions on opening up the transpacific travel reopening in August, Margaret Hammond, a former resident that resides in Texas can’t wait for the quarantine rules to be lifted.
“I last visited my sister, two years ago. I hope they lift this quarantine up soon. I miss Kaua‘i and want to visit my sister who gave birth in May. I also want to see my nieces and nephews,” said Hammond.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.