LIHU‘E — The reality is, visitors continue to fly into Hawai‘i despite a mandatory two-week quarantine, and Kaua‘i’s working on another “out-of-the-box” proactive measure, Mayor Derek Kawakami said Tuesday.
The county is currently forging away on a “Plan B” resort bubble that would confine visitors to a property to quarantine.
A team is workshopping the idea and working on technology to create a geo-fence that would create a boundary of where visitors are allowed. Tourists will need to agree to be tracked, Kawakami said, but they would be able to enjoy the resort property without endangering others.
Kawakami said the idea is flexible right now, keeping in mind that pre-testing or tests upon arrival could eventually be established. And putting a hard reopening date on the table just isn’t feasible at this stage of the pandemic.
“Those components are not tangible right now, but the speed at which technology has been created during this pandemic is mindblowing,” Kawakami said. “We’re looking at ways to reshape the visitor industry so when we get back to normalcy, it’s still a vibrant visitor experience without further eroding the quality of life for residents.”
And this resort bubble idea, like many of the “out-of-the-box” ideas coming out of Kaua‘i, Gov. David Ige is in full support.
“Mayor Kawakami has been a strong advocate for solutions that work on Kaua‘i, not a one size fits all,” Ige said in an interview with The Garden Island on Tuesday.
Reflecting on Kaua‘i, Ige pointed to the leadership of Kawakami and his team of experts, including Kaua‘i District Health Officer Janet Berreman, analyzing the rapidly changing pandemic, establishing rules and enforcing different tactics to protect a Kaua‘i community.
Ige pointed to the institution of the nightly curfew as one of those key efforts that worked here but not elsewhere.
On March 20, Kawakami implemented his second emergency rule related to the novel coronavirus, establishing an islandwide nighttime curfew in effect from 9 p.m. through 5 a.m. daily. Similar curfews were later adopted on a trial basis in Honolulu and Maui, but they didn’t see the same results as Kaua‘i, Ige said.
Yesterday, state officials reported 144 new positive cases of coronavirus, and the death of a Honolulu resident, a stark reminder that the pandemic continues with force. And while cases spike throughout the state and community spread is confirmed on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i remains as a leader in response.
Since March, Kaua‘i has reported 47 total cases, and as of Tuesday afternoon, only two of these were active and currently in isolation.
Ige and the mayors meet three times weekly discussing response, rules and other topics. The state, Ige said, provides a framework for the counties to work off, but these meetings have provided key moments of collaboration.
“Every county needs the ability to create and shape a program that works for them,” he said.
Having the support of the governor has given the mayor a sense of relief.
“(Ige) has never lost his temper or responded with ill will, it’s always been with patience and understanding and compassion,” Kawakami said.
The state-county relationship has evolved, both said, and has only resulted in a stronger understanding and greater respect.
“I know how complicated managing this little island can be,” Kawakami said. “I can’t imaging the weight on his shoulders.”