Reservations about reopening

LIHU‘E — Gov. David Ige and Hawai‘i’s four county mayors met Thursday for the third time this week to try to address the increasingly urgent question of whether the state can safely reopen to tourists on Aug. 1. But the group adjourned late in the afternoon without making any final decision.

A source familiar with the meeting’s outcome said there is a strong chance Ige will reconvene the mayors again today, but no firm meeting time had been set.

At least two of the mayors — Kaua‘i’s Derek S.K. Kawakami and Honolulu’s Kirk Caldwell — expressed deep reservations throughout the day Thursday about the safety of sticking to the reopening plan Ige originally announced on June 24.

The Garden Island also contacted the offices of Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim and Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino to seek comments on the situation. Neither mayor responded. Neither Kawakami nor Caldwell would speculate on when Ige may announce any change.

Although the timing of the plan to reopen the state to tourism has been controversial since the governor unveiled it, developments over the last few days have cast a pall over whether the goal is achievable. The situation underscored the high stakes and escalating uncertainties of the COVID pandemic for Hawai‘i.

New cases in the state have spiked. The state Department of Health announced Thursday that 36 new cases had been identified statewide, including one on Kaua‘i. That brings the statewide total to 1,130, including 43 on Kaua‘i. There have been 19 deaths statewide, but none on Kaua‘i.

Kawakami, Caldwell and others said the COVID pandemic is escalating out of control in several mainland states — most notably California, the source of more than 40% of Hawai‘i tourists.

A third urgent concern is that increasing case volumes in several parts of the country — not just California — have resulted in a 50% reduction in the amount of testing reagent’s allocated to Hawai‘i because escalating case counts have created shortages elsewhere more urgent than Hawai‘i’s. Roche Diagnostics, supplier of a large portion of the testing chemicals, announced abruptly on Wednesday that Hawai‘i’s supply is to be slashed from more than 5,000 tests a day to as few as 2,300.

In an interview with The Garden Island Thursday morning, Kawakami said Ige remained interested in the perspective of the different mayors. Kawakami said it remains possible that Kaua‘i County may have to implement its own modifications of the travel policy if the statewide policies and dates do not adequately assure the island’s safety.

“I did speak up for Kaua‘i, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to make this tough call,” he said. The ongoing discussions with Ige, said Kawakami, “identified how close we are to the edge. The landscape has changed.

“It doesn’t sit well with me and others. What exacerbates the problem is our testing capacity has evaporated overnight. Remember, all the states are competing for the same supplies. I couldn’t in good conscience say we are ready to open up on Aug. 1.

“If the state moves forward with an Aug. 1 reopening, we are asking for (at least) a grace period.”

He said one option open to Kaua‘i if Ige will not delay the statewide reopening is for the island to continue the 14 day quarantine for the next 28 days, through around the end of August.

“We’d be very open to working with the tourism industry,” Kawakami said. “For Kaua‘i, because we took a very strong approach to enforcing the governor’s original orders and his prohibition on rental cars, it’s a doable proposal for Kaua‘i. I’m not sure about the other counties.”

Kawakami acknowledged that enforcing the existing 14-day quarantine has been a challenge for the Kaua‘i Police Department and the Hawai‘i National Guard. KPD Chief Todd Raybuck did not respond to a request for comment from The Garden Island. While KPD has maintained control over the situation, a large scale influx of tourists could cause those plans to disintegrate.

A major deficiency in planning to potentially ramp up quarantine enforcement, Kawakami said, is that an online app critical to any enforcement effort does not yet exist and there is no date scheduled for it to be rolled out. The app would merge electronically data on an individual tourist’s background that will be gathered on an entry form with online confirmation of the tourist’s negative test results.

Kawakami said he was open to creation of what would amount to one or more “quarantine resorts,” where visitors whose movements are restricted could use facilities like the grounds, the pool and other amenities at some hotel whose management would commit to using it exclusively for quarantine customers.

The Garden Island learned that an informal committee of doctors and community leaders that has advocated for requiring visitors to show evidence of a negative COVID test taken within three days of arrival is considering an additional proposal for a dedicated testing machine to be purchased and stationed at such a quarantine hotel. The plan is under discussion but has not been formally introduced because the committee wants to avoid interfering in Kawakami’s planning process.

Ige has said a single test before arrival would become a requirement on Aug. 1. The informal committee has been pushing for requirement of a second test that would be administered after an incoming visitor undergoes six days of quarantine, possibly at a dedicated facility. The second test requirement drew conditional support from Caldwell.

At a Honolulu news conference, Caldwell said the meetings with Ige have been like “a marathon.” He said “we’re really struggling to determine what we do next to our economy. Without return of visitors, we’re going to be hobbling along.”

Like Kawakami, Caldwell said the earth has moved since Ige’s original announcement of the Aug. 1 reopening. “When the decision was made,” he said, “the situation was very different. Now, we see cases surging in markets where most of our visitors come from. COVID is on a rampage in California and they’ve lost control of the virus. We’re concerned that visitors may be bringing the virus with them.

“With all that, we are reevaluating the Aug. 1 deadline. Do you just say it’s suspended (or) push it off two weeks or a month? In a month, do we know what it’s going to look like in California. That’s a big unknown there.” But, Caldwell said, “we need to give a date and we need to make it a firm date as much as possible. With the conditions that are now in place, I don’t think it’s safe enough. Time is of the essence, but I don’t think we-re going to be rushed.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to reflect accuracy.

35 Comments
  1. Palani July 10, 2020 6:17 am Reply

    You can’t protect the patient by cutting off it’s air supply. Hawaii lives and dies by tourism. It’s lifeblood has been cut off for four months now. Any longer, and irreversible gangrene will set in. How many destitute citizens will it take?


    1. Chuck July 11, 2020 10:31 pm Reply

      You can recover from destitute but dead is game over. Go to Florida, Arizona, or any hot spot that opened to early and then post your opinion.


  2. mina July 10, 2020 6:24 am Reply

    Do not open. If you work in the tourism industry, find something else to do, or take your skills to the mainland. No more tourism in Hawaii.


    1. Debra Kekaualua July 10, 2020 2:00 pm Reply

      Peeps be slithering! Retroactively, Kauai leaders are as lost as everyone else and cannot make decisions based on their knowing nothing about how-to effectively Affect this situation. They are players and need to get it pono, not pay to play, Hewa loa!

      No treaty, not america, and covid’s game plans are strictly for those that wear the mark of the beasties! Kauai has thousands, waiting to be exposed! i wont hold back, but i am not the one that itemized who they are.

      Read KPD BLue, Superferry Chronicles, and The Fifth Seal author Benish, at your library! These are true stories, real victims, continuing to wish for justice we deserve, but do not receive due to Martial Law. Occupying us military, politicoJudiciary skankin, all day, every way!

      No treaty, NOT America, GAME OVER!


    2. Da Shadow July 10, 2020 2:06 pm Reply

      HAHAHAHAHA
      why not just tell all your friends and neighbors how much you really hate them?

      not sure why you’d say something so tone-deaf, but you obviously don’t need to work for a living.


    3. Jake July 10, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

      Trust fund baby, SAHM, or on the Government Dole????


    4. steven July 10, 2020 4:37 pm Reply

      Increasingly, everyone in the country is aware of the tourist attitude on Kauai. If the new plan is that the County of Kauai will mandate a hotel for visitors, it is not a vacation spot. It is a gulag. Sleep with one eye open.


    5. Peke July 10, 2020 6:48 pm Reply

      This statement is just absurd.


  3. Kimberley Veilleux July 10, 2020 6:35 am Reply

    From the perspective of a part-time resident and property owner on Kauai, I find that Hawaii is taking unusually restrictive steps in allowing United States visitors and residents return to the island. I share your concern, as a doctor myself, of prevention of COVID19 infection spread to island residents but you should act in a scientific manner. I shared with the office of Governor Ige previously, that you should require each traveler from the mainland U.S. to provide an official document upon arrival in Hawaii stating their COVID19 test was negative within 72 hours of departure from their home. Airlines, like Alaska, require all passengers to wear masks and are spacing passengers so this is an additional provision of infection prevention. It would be a violation of my rights as a U.S. citizen to quarantine me in a facility, other than my home in Kauai, which is not realistic to require as well. The notion Mayor Kawakami has to quarantine travelers 4 weeks also is without scientific evidence of benefit. I have already been prohibited to return to my home in Kauai for a visit since March 2020 due to not desiring to be quarantined in my home for 2 weeks, so let’s follow the direction of science and stop this unnecessary restrictions of your own residents who leave elsewhere part of the year!


    1. ParadiseLost July 10, 2020 3:48 pm Reply

      So you’re saying: As someone who is hoarding land on an island with rampant housing and homelessness — which drives up the cost of housing making it even more difficult for the poor local people to find housing — and as a doctor who is knowingly doing harm to the island despite having taken an oath to do no harm and protect life — you think that we should let more people like you on to the island with less restrictions than are currently in place, despite the fact that all the cases we’ve had on the island were brought by people traveling from the mainland, and the fact that the quarantine regulations you have characterized as being excessive have been violated on numerous occasions by visitors who don’t care enough about the people on the island they are visiting to follow the rules to prevent spread, you think they are too strict because you want to come and visit the island where you don’t live, because you don’t care about anything but yourself.

      You are coming across as extremely selfish and entitled, and also making a good case for why the date should be pushed back, and why people like you shouldn’t be allowed. You are also making a good case for Hawaiian sovereignty, because you believe your entitlement is justified by your status as a US citizen.

      I don’t feel like the restrictions are unnecessarily restrictive, on the contrary this is the best place to be at this time. Our re-opening has been going well, and it’s in no small part due to the fact that people like you haven’t been here. We don’t want this to be another California or other mainland location where the cases are exploding and thousands of people are dying, thank you very much.

      It said your name is Kimberly, but you sound more like a Karen.


      1. Katherine July 11, 2020 5:55 am Reply

        You sound pretty ridiculous and wanting to live in a fairytale world where all of the bad people would turn over their keys to the homeless and poor people. How are they going to maintain the homes? As much as you don’t like it, Hawaii is part of the US. We can own property.
        There have been an increase in positive cases. A positive test doesn’t mean you have any symptoms or even feel sick at all. I know a family where 3 out of 4 tested positive and none of them where sick at all. That is getting us closer to herd immunity. Also, every positive test is counted as a new case even if It is one person testing several times. That isn’t right. Also, we have increased testing where a lot of people are wanting to get tested because they had a bad cold back in Feb but are not exhibiting any symptoms at all currently. Death count is down. I’m going to donate blood today at the Red Cross and they will be testing my blood for COVID-19 and the antibodies. Who knows. I’m super careful with masks and hand washing. We can move forward. There is never going to be zero Covid and to keep communities closed down waiting for that unicorn is irresponsible.


    2. Dr. jim July 10, 2020 4:02 pm Reply

      Dr. V.,
      I don’t think you read the article closely. No one is asking for a 28 day quarantine. They are asking for an extension of 28 days of some quarantine to try to work out a plan for success rather than a haphazard approach to reacting to crises. Once you have a problem here, it will take about 6 weeks of aggressive shutdown to bring that problem back to the level it was at the time you recognized you had a problem. Longer to eliminate it. That is what they are asking for time to work out.

      As a physician you should understand “primum non nocere” – first do no harm.

      You have not been prohibited from returning to your home. You have elected not to participate in efforts to keep people on this island safe. Entirely your right, but you had the choice.

      The use of a second test is not perfect, but mitigates the introduction of case numbers that exceed the ability of the island to do contact tracing and provide hospital care.

      Mandating an opening without testing capabilities is homicide, even if only for a small percentage of residents.

      I recognize the economic impact of not having tourism is huge. But so is having an uncontrolled infection on an isolated island, with inadequate resources as we approach hurricane season.


  4. RG DeSoto July 10, 2020 7:48 am Reply

    These bumblers can’t decipher the difference between case rates and death rates. Even the lame CDC’s data show that while case rates may be growing somewhat, mortality is steadily dropping.
    They also fail to see the connection between the huge increase in testing and higher reported cases…most of which exhibit mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
    Sad these classless “leaders” are hopelessly innumerate.
    RG DeSoto


    1. Don July 10, 2020 1:44 pm Reply

      Absolutely agree with you. I am in the exact same position and I am a medical provider as well. I pay taxes and contribute to the community. I seriously would like to know why there has been no expansion of ICU capability since March? Wasn’t the point of the shut down to allow time for health care systems to prepare adequately? Is this not a colosal failure of local leadership to still only have capability for 11 ICU patients? How long can residents survive with these restrictions? Please Mr Mayor and Governer let us know what positive steps you have implemented in the last three months when you were supposed to be preparing. By now, we should have increased capacity significantly.

      Let’s also remember. You, mr mayors and governor are drawing a paycheck irregardless. Allow your constituents to do the same. It is time to reopen and move forward. If new leadership is required the so be it. Please do not claim to be basing your decision on science thought. There are those that know better. We need to move forward, protect the vulnerable, and adapt. You can not hide forever.

      Mahalo


    2. outfoxed July 10, 2020 3:48 pm Reply

      Where did you get your degree in mathematics or medicine? Do you have a high school degree? Regurgitating talking points from Fox doesn’t really count for much.
      Just because you don’t die from something doesn’t mean it isn’t something to take seriously. Twenty percent of people end up with complications due to covid-19. You know most people won’t from getting their arms chopped off. Does that mean getting your arm chopped off is fine?
      Also simple math for you, no matter the amount of tests done, the percentage of people testing positive stays consistent which is why people look at the ratio of positive cases to total tests. The idiotic idea that more testing leads to more cases is something a child could poke holes in. If people weren’t sick then they wouldn’t test positive.


    3. Rod Williams July 12, 2020 8:44 am Reply

      I agree RG DeSoto. Time and space on this forum doesn’t allow response sufficient to debate/dispel fear being propagated by gov over-reaction & hype of media, however let me offer this advice to all immersed in reopening planning: save your time & effort, because we aren’t coming if it’s complicated. Right or wrong, it doesn’t make for a good vacation.


  5. alien July 10, 2020 8:18 am Reply

    Wondering how these leaders are even qualified to make these decisions. Their leadership has landed us here. Seems either reopen or lock down. We need real leaders with a real plan. Did not see anything about extending unemployment. Truly insulting the way these guys give only 1/2 info with no solid plan. 28 days? yeah we all bankrupt now…


  6. Paulo July 10, 2020 8:20 am Reply

    Our country is completely unprepared now with severely reduced testing which was about all we really had, ICU’s again are on overload on the mainland and the virus spreading fast in all but 2 states. This is not the time to open the state or the island. Many recovered COVID patients are now facing lasting side effects. Some are still dying.


  7. Uncleaina July 10, 2020 8:32 am Reply

    Mayor K is one of the leaders handling Covid the best. The proof is in the numbers and the number that matters most is zero – zero deaths on Kauai. This might give people a false sense of security, but NEVER forget that there’s nothing stopping Kauai from becoming Phoenix or Houston – with ICUs that are at 100% capacity. There’s still 14 ventilators on this whole island. The surprise cut to our testing shows how vulnerable Hawaii is. Mayor K seems to understand these things. You can “reopen” – just look at the states that did reopen 5 weeks ago, FL, AZ, TX – they’re getting hammered today. 4000 deaths in Florida! 10,000 new cases a day in Texas. We can’t put ourselves in this position 2700 miles away from everything. Do whatever it takes Derek!


    1. SimpleSolutions July 10, 2020 8:07 pm Reply

      Nothing the mayor has done has made a difference in the number of cases on Kauai, the shelter in place and travel restrictions (14 quarantine etc) that Ige implemented effectively kept the spread of Covid-19 from Kauai. It’s obvious that Mayor Kawakami cares about the island and its people…but he he did nothing we would have the same number of cases on Kauai.

      We need to come to terms that whenever tourism opens up, Covid-19 is coming to Kauai. What has the mayor done in the past few weeks with regards to preparing for that to happen? Has he increased hospital beds, incubators, PPEs, ICU units, and medical staff?

      The fact is that Covid-19 is highly contageous, but the death rates are no where near what was assumed in February. The mayor needs to focus more on how we live with covid-19 than on trying to stop the unstoppable.

      Kauai has lost more souls to suicide than we have to Covid-19.


  8. Kauaidoug July 10, 2020 9:59 am Reply

    Please, please Mayor Kawakami, do not give in to economic forces after sticking to your guns and allowing Kaua’i to have been relatively Covid19 free for a while. We have been very fortunate BUT if our police are stretched to enforce what little Covid19 we have had then what about when we have hundreds if not thousands of visitors? Until we can make people put a tracer app on their phone AND have much faster and reliable turnaround on testing, meaning done right here in Hawaii if not Kauai, then we need to stand fast.
    Our technology is going to have to save us because we have seen the resistance of mask wearing by certain “cultures” on the mainland. Stick to your guns Mayor!


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

      You missed your generation in 1930s Germany.


  9. KauaiJane July 10, 2020 11:00 am Reply

    What?
    28 days?
    Is that a typo?


  10. Debra Kekaualua July 10, 2020 1:57 pm Reply

    Peeps be slithering! Retroactively, Kauai leaders are as lost as everyone else and cannot make decisions based on their knowing nothing about how-to effectively Affect this situation. They are players and need to get it pono, not pay to play, Hewa loa!

    No treaty, not america, and covid’s game plans are strictly for those that wear the mark of the beasties! Kauai has thousands, waiting to be exposed! i wont hold back, but i am not the one that itemized who they are.

    Read KPD BLue, Superferry Chronicles, and The Fifth Seal author Benish, at your library! These are true stories, real victims, continuing to wish for justice we deserve, but do not receive due to Martial Law. Occupying us military, politicoJudiciary skankin, all day, every way!

    No treaty, NOT America, GAME OVER!


    1. literate July 11, 2020 10:11 am Reply

      Debra, mahalo for your opinion, however we do not need to read it twice! I think most of us get your message…..


  11. Da Shadow July 10, 2020 2:10 pm Reply

    Mr Parachini, since you don’t seem to need money, will you please send some to the THOUSANDS of us who rely on JOBS to pay for rent, groceries, insurance, etc, etc (it’s a long list)?
    it’s time to be realistic about this; prohibiting visitors isn’t the way.


  12. Pete Antonson July 10, 2020 2:39 pm Reply

    Stop the “It’s just the flu” narratives of denial and look into how this virus is, in so-called mild cases, leaving behind permanent brain damage, respiratory system damage and damage to major organs. It is turning younger lives into older lives!


  13. manongindashadow0711 July 10, 2020 4:53 pm Reply

    We should have been like American Samoa from day one in March or sooner when the word COVID-19 existed. “Shutdown the State of Hawaii and stop people from leaving &entering the State!”
    I guess it’s to late now. However the old saying goes, “It’s never to late!” “Leave the State on shutdown!!!” And, “people wear a mask, keep safe distance, wash hands and stay home(unless have to travel).”


  14. Sherilyn Wolter July 10, 2020 5:00 pm Reply

    I understand our economy is driven by tourism. Everyone knows that.
    But if we are inundated by reckless (and many are) tourists from virus-ridden places, we’re sunk.
    Tourists are famous here for not following rules.
    What good are open businesses if our workers are sick? And I’ve heard that our police are overburdened with monitoring quarantiners already. A 72-hour prior test and six-day quarantine plan has holes.
    And we don’t have the doctors, the beds, or supplies. If a person gets very sick here they have to be helicoptered to Oahu. That doesn’t seem to me to be at all sustainable.

    I think Mayor Kawakami has been doing a terrific job and has the heart, the courage, and the intelligence to do the right thing.


  15. Norm Smith July 10, 2020 5:31 pm Reply

    Now is the time to see ….. What is important … Is it money or is it your family and friends?


  16. Westside Resident July 10, 2020 9:30 pm Reply

    …Those that have money and those that don’t.

    Those with are scared to death of a virus they can’t avoid. Those who must earn a living, face reality and the risks that come with it.

    The virus isn’t going away.


  17. manawai July 11, 2020 8:18 am Reply

    It comes down one thing: Kauai residents are now, more than ever, divided between those whose income is independent of tourism such as retirees, the independently wealthy, government benefit recipients, County Council members, the Mayor, and on the other side those whose livelihood depends directly or indirectly on tourism. The latter pretty much includes everyone that is working, i.e. the “workforce”. It also includes lower-paid government workers who will ultimately be laid off due to the material drop in tax revenues.

    So, for example, if you are a farmer, your farm income, which is never great, depends at least in part on tourism because your farmers’ markets customers include tourists and those whose income depends on tourism. So that marginal-at- best occupation will suffer, if not evaporate, due to the lack of customers.

    So whether we realize it or not, we can be divided into these two groups: one that wants tourists to go away and are just fined with that, and those hard-working folks who need the jobs they held up to this point.

    The statement that you should just leave your home or find some other career somewhere else at the snap of your fingers is ignorant, ugly and hateful. And I’d like to see YOU do that,


  18. Iamdoingjustthat July 12, 2020 10:51 am Reply

    not evil , just practical and obvious


  19. Jan July 13, 2020 4:31 am Reply

    Just now thinking about buying a testing machine! The state of Hawaii should have bought several and ramped up testing airports immediately. Hawaii has wasted the precious gift of being on a island and could have been testing visitors and returning residents the entire time. This is a failure of leadership. Even though testing isn’t 100%. This would be safer than the 14 day Quarantine.


  20. Tim d July 14, 2020 5:30 am Reply

    Wow, all the years I have spent on Kauai, I never knew the hatred for tourists was so rampant. Those of us that come several times a year and spend money in the economy are actually hated by the locals. Well that makes it easy for me, time to go somewhere else. That being said, all of you from Kauai should not be allowed on the mainland since that is essentially what you are saying to us. So stay on your island and in a year when you have no money for government services and no money for your schools, when unemployment is so high that you all become homeless, don’t come to the mainland as you won’t be anymore welcome here as we are there. Bunch of whining self entitled locals.


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