Kawakami asks Ige to approve post-travel program

LIHU‘E — Kauai County inched closer on Wednesday to a two-test system to detect COVID-19 infections once the state opens further to tourism on Oct. 15 as Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami formally asked the governor’s office to approve a program to require a second test after visitors arrive on the island.

Kawakami apparently made the request of Gov. David Ige on Wednesday, but there was no official announcement and it was not clear when county officials could give additional details about how the new second test would be administered. County spokespeople did not respond to requests for additional detail.

Ige’s office also did not respond to a query from The Garden Island about whether Kawakami’s request would be granted. Even with the confusion, however, experts on Kaua‘i’s COVID response applauded the mayor’s request as enabling greater certainty about whether people arriving here — either visitors or residents — may be carrying the infection.

Thursday, Kawakami’s office released a brief statement, which said:

“In light of the state’s pre-travel testing program, we are looking to implement additional rules and regulations specifically for Kaua‘i given our size and medical capacity. We have requested the governor’s authorization to implement a pilot post-arrival testing program for all incoming arrivals to Kaua‘i.

“This program would require all travelers – transpacific and interisland — who wish to avoid a full 14-day quarantine to take a test no sooner than 72 hours after arrival to Kaua‘i. We are currently awaiting approval of this pilot proposal from the governor in an effort to have the program up and running by Oct. 15.”

As the testing requirement currently stands, trans-pacific travelers who arrive can escape the mandatory 14-day quarantine by showing they have had negative result from a COVID test administered within three days of arrival.

Thursday afternoon, the mayor’s office released a brief statement amplifying on the request to Ige. “Our Kaua‘i incident management team continues to work on those details,” said a spokesperson of questions about how the system would actually work. “The idea is to be able to expand our testing capacity as to not take away capacity from our residents.”

Many questions about how the new program would actually work remained unanswered. The governor has not made clear how inter-island travelers will be handled under the announced one-test system. Skeptics have charged that the governor’s announced single test policy is riven by exceptions and lack of clarity about its requirements.

Still later Wednesday, the mayor further clarified that the new Kaua‘i proposal would require incoming trans-pacific travelers to take the pre-test as part of the state’s program to be eligible for the Kaua‘i post-arrival test program.

“For interisland travelers, because they are not included in the state pre-test program,” the mayor’s office said, “we would only require a post-arrival test in order to be exempt.”

Kawakami’s new second test proposal would move Kaua‘i substantially closer to recommendations originally made in June by the Kaua‘i COVID-19 Discussion group, an ad hoc group of doctors and public figures. The group recommended requiring two COVID tests for visitors to Kaua‘i, separated by a six-day quarantine.

The mayor’s proposal requires slightly less time in quarantine than the discussion group recommended.

But Dr. Lee Evslin, a founder of the group and a long-time pediatrician on the island welcomed the mayor’s proposal.

“I am very impressed and pleased that Mayor Kawakami and Dr. (Janet) Berreman (the Hawai‘i state district health officer for Kaua‘i) are pushing hard for state permission to quarantine on Kaua‘i for the additional time that it takes to get a second test,” Evslin said Thursday.

“I understand the economic pressures are real and are driving these ideas for reopening our tourism-related economies. A second test after 72 hours is far safer than a single pre-test and I understand that it may have been hard to even have the county considered for an exception, but a second test after six to seven days in quarantine is still much safer.”

While Evslin said he would still prefer the slightly longer quarantine period, “if the data look good and we stay safe, consider shortening further the time in quarantine.”

One of the uncertainties about requiring a second test relates to how sufficient testing supplies can be found and stockpiled on island to provide capacity to test all incoming tourists and returning residents. The issue was not addressed in Kawakami’s statement.

Evslin cautioned that the second test with a quarantine period in between may still not be enough to prevent a surge in COVID infections on the island. “If we have a surge, we may have to shut down again, keep our schools closed, and put our people and hospital capacities at risk,” Evslin said.

“I believe a surge in cases is a much worse economic driver than a phased re-opening. Vermont is requiring a quarantine until a second test after seven days. And other states are also quite concerned and acting on those concerns.”

Disclosure of Kawakami’s request of the governor also coincided with recent statements by at least two resorts properties that they are moving forward with plans to create “bubbles” that will isolate guests who arrive from elsewhere by limiting their movements and keeping them from leaving the resort properties.

The plans, which were confirmed by managers at the Club at Kukuiula in Koloa and Hokuala-Timbers Ocean Club and Resort in Lihu‘e, appeared as recently as last week to be potentially superfluous, even though creation of the bubbles has been heavily promoted within the visitor industry by the Kawakami administration.

With the new request to allow Kauai to require a second test with an interim quarantine, the model the two resorts — and as many as three or four others, according to county sources — the county’s prospective test/quarantine strategy began to take on fuller dimensions in terms of how it could be implemented.

Former County Council member and mayor JoAnn Yukimura had expressed serious reservations about the impending Oct. 15 one-test system, arguing it could increase the statewide total of COVID cases by as many as 1,100 in just the first month after it began.

Yukimura was also a founder of the COVID discussion group and has been a persistent critic of the state’s and the county’s plans for reopening. The one-test system, she said, “will devastate the health and safety of the people of Hawai‘i, leading to another shutdown and economic devastation, not recovery.”

  1. John Erwin October 1, 2020 5:19 am Reply

    Will guests be allowed to have a rental car and where would the 2nd test be administered. WE are on the north shore. If no rental car, how would guests get to Lihue (assumed test site) to get the 2nd test? Will the county provide transportation or is the rental car OK. This is not addressed in any of the discussions. The 6 or 7-day quarantine will seriously damage the visitor industry since most guests only come here for 4 – 7 days. Why would they come and be in quarantine for the whole time? They will stay on Oahu and vacation there. There needs to be a lot more discussion before this 2nd test goes online.

  2. KauaiFarmMan October 1, 2020 5:34 am Reply

    Great let’s make sure every business closes on this island. What happens when the free money runs out. How will the people make ends meet here. Our mayor wants to completely destroy our economy so him and and his rich friends can buy up everything for pennies on the dollar. This is a sham. This virus is not deadly enough to warrant these extreme measures. Open up before it’s too late. No body is coming here with taking 2 tests and still having to quarantine. Stop living in fear. You all traded your FREEDOM for a false sense of security. End this shutdown, end this mask wearing political theatre.

  3. K.D. October 1, 2020 5:45 am Reply

    I am a middle class, budget minded traveler.
    I am happy to take a test once I land.
    Here are my questions:
    -where are you isolating me while checking the test? Lihue’s airport is pretty small. I WANT to be isolated at the airport because, if I am positive, I need to turn around and leave. No way do I want to infect Kauai.
    -who pays the airline to fly me back?
    -will Wailua Bay View (our only accommodation) allow me to cancel and give me a refund?

    We don’t have more than 2 weeks to travel, ever. Work does not permit it. If I test positive, I have to fly home and be refunded for airfare and accommodations.

    To repeat, I am fine with a test once I land. But you cannot turn me loose until you have test results. And if I test positive, someone has to reimburse me for flight and accommodations.

    I dread the idea of over 24 hours of airport/airline time to turn around and fly back to the Midwest if I test positive. I am willing to do it if it keeps Kauai safe. But I won’t forfeit my hard-earned cash.

    Except I forget I am not an upscale traveler, and therefore undesirable.

  4. rk669 October 1, 2020 6:17 am Reply

    No need Jobs,tourist as long we have Breadlines and Govt Handouts!

  5. Mickey B. October 1, 2020 8:36 am Reply

    The Cliffs at Princeville is also moving forward with plans to operate as a “bubble resort”. It is a mixed use resort with full-time residents and timeshare operations.

    As I understand the “bubble resort” concept, new arrivals to Kauai (returning residents or visitors) will have full access to the property (swimming pools, gardens, etc.) during their mandatory 2-week quarantine without testing. This assumes that the current measure of care to reduce transmission of Covid-19 to employees and individuals already on the property (wearing masks and social distancing) has been deemed adequate.
    Has the mayor’s office established and guidelines and requirements for resort bubble operations? If so, is that information readily available to the public?

  6. LTEreader October 1, 2020 9:00 am Reply

    September 30, 2020:
    “It feels like we’re at another turning point with the COVID pandemic. After weeks of declining coronavirus case numbers nationwide, we’ve had a change of luck and cases are now climbing in 32 states across the U.S.” The New York Times reports.

    September 17, 2020:
    “The World Health Organization has warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a “very serious situation” unfolds across the continent. As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic.”

    Thank you Mayor Kawakami! The majority of residents are hoping Governor Ige sees the LOGIC in your request, and approves it. If not, it could get ugly. The Super Ferry, and Love Has Won protests are great examples of what Kaua’i residents won’t tolerate. With only 9 ICU beds we can’t allow COVID to get out of control, and the ‘single test’ plan could do just that!

  7. Paulo October 1, 2020 9:11 am Reply

    Good for Mayor Kawakami. 2 tests with one before flying and the 2nd one here with a short quarantine in between. It’s a compromise that we should be able to live with.

  8. RL Skinner October 1, 2020 9:14 am Reply

    Again? Seems like our mayor is doing everything possible to discourage visitors. How many tests and how much time before we can open up. I suggest all county workers forego their salaries until the small businesses can open up.

  9. Kauai's Critical Thinker October 1, 2020 11:23 am Reply

    Its amazing how those who are not being financially, emotionally, or personally impacted by these decisions are making them.

    Where is the science behind the County of Kauai’s decisions? Real science not speculation.

    Where is the mass testing of the people of Kauai to say if one person with covid-19 comes to the island they will inadvertently kill everyone else on the island? Maybe there is already community spread with low viral count, how would we know?

    Where is the Planning by the mayor and his office for a potential MCI (mass casualty Incident)? Where is a temporary facility, beds, PPE, ventilators, and personnel in case Kauai does have a break out? All government agencies are required to have a plan, and in the last 6 months Derek has not asked for any of these things. What has he been doing?

    The Mayor’s emergency declarations don’t agree with the CDC’s statistics of survival rates 99.6% under the age of 69,and 96.4% survival rate over the age of 70.
    To make a point here just because someone has covid-19 does not mean they have the viral load to get another person sick or that they will even need to go to the hospital. The County of Kauai’s decisions are baseless without proof or merit. Where are the actual testing and numbers for Kauai?

    The assumption that IF a person has covid-19 without proof is like blaming everyone you see as a person with intent to kill and throwing them in prison for you thoughts against them. This is flat out wrong! How do we know that the local people around us don’t have it today, 3 days, or 7 days from now? We don’t.

    The County Kauai has peddled FEAR by saying if you get this you will die or kill everyone around you without providing proof or a real plan as required. Starting with the tv monitors in the airport baggage claim with the mighty Mayor of Kauai telling you what you can and can not do with his personnel militia standing behind him, threatening you to use the police, and resources as his right arm of personal justice.
    Hello KPD local rules do not supersede the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a persons freedoms to make a living, live their life peacefully, and assemble freely.
    KPD by abiding by the Mayor’s and Governors rules you are doing a disservice, and hurting the people of Kauai as a whole. This is borderline, or flat out illegal what has been going on in the guise of safety.

    Could this be a power, or political issue?
    Kauai has probably had community spread this entire time, people just haven’t gone to the hospital, we will never know because of the lack of testing.
    All the decisions that have been made are based on pure speculation, without planning for a actual mass incident.

    People of Kauai please ask the real questions the hard questions of our supposed leaders, please do not just fall in line with every word they say, make them prove it with real data, and real planning.

    The plan to do nothing and blaming everyone else is what has been going on, Kauai deserves better then the status quo.

    Some might ask do I have a plan, YES I do, this is what I do. Will the mayor or his people listen? Probably not.

    Aloha, and Malama each other.

  10. Steven October 1, 2020 12:56 pm Reply

    I support efforts to minimize the spread of covid, but how in the world is this just now being discussed publicly with two weeks before the state’s reopening plan reopens to travelers?

    And where are the details? Assuming travelers need to quarantine during the 72 hours between arrival to Kauai and the second test–and will need to quarantine while they await the results of the second test–we could be talking about a 5-7 day quarantine period. This won’t torpedo the tourist industry as much as the 14 day quarantine, but I can’t imagine people are going to want to come to Hawaii under these conditions, especially since there are so many details unresolved.

    I’m not against the 2 tests idea, but the time to have gotten this sorted out was a month ago not now!!

  11. Doug October 1, 2020 2:32 pm Reply

    Good news. Very smart plan by our mayor. In Iceland one infected French couple led to over 100 more being infected. A second test would have avoided that situation.

  12. I saw a Vampire once October 1, 2020 4:03 pm Reply

    Just writing about tourism isn’t going to bring the tourist back. How many stores and hotels have you closed on Kauai? A lot. As death rates increase exponentially, the visitors will drop in count. Now what? We don’t need any more of your stories on Bernard P. Carvalho jr. The UH football guy. Played before. He’s a big man.

    1. Rick October 1, 2020 6:39 pm Reply

      Death rates are NOT increasing exponentially…

  13. Kauaidoug October 2, 2020 8:04 am Reply

    Reading this article I’m struck by two things.
    One is they still don’t have a real plan for this public health crisis pertains to Covid19 and influx of tourists only 2 weeks away? Huh?
    The second is who in the world thinks visitors will follow these bubble guide lines. I can imagine people standing at a hotel fence( imaginary at most hotels) looking longingly at the surf beckoning them to greener, bluer pastures. Yeah, right. Not saying all but I just don’t see it
    Until we can do a second test at the airport upon entry. If positive it’s on their dime for all Sevices rendered period. An individual makes a choice to travel or not and they should pay the consequences. Turn them around at the airport before they take up our icu beds.
    Kauai or anywhere could be the next White House! Do we want that mess here?

  14. LTEreader October 2, 2020 9:01 am Reply

    KauaiFarmMan: “end this mask wearing political theatre.”

    I guess you’ve heard by now that the President, one of the more vocal anti-maskers, and his wife are now sick with COVID. Bam, there’s some real live “theatre” for ya!

  15. Two_cents_for_free October 5, 2020 9:53 pm Reply

    Slow and steady wins the race. This is a marathon not a sprint.

    I want to start by saying I’m super grateful to live on Kauai where I don’t have to be suspicious of the person next to me and stress obsessively about catching covid! Coming from a city where covid is running rampant and knowing firsthand how easily and quickly this virus spreads…and kills, I wonder how many people who are complaining about a second test have experienced covid face to face… living on Kauai?

    I support the “bubble resorts”. Anyone breaking the bubble should be fined and subject to the same laws that apply to quarantine breakers. Resorts are fined/liable for any guest that leaves their facilities.

    I agree that a six days quarantine, two test system is probably what most countries will come to the conclusion is necessary to slow covid, considering there might not be a vaccine for 2 years. I know it’s a total bummer, but sorry guys, welcome to the new normal.

    Kauai health and government should probably do mobile testing, so that we can provide jobs and keep quarantiners from having to negotiate transportation.

    Market Kauai as a 3-week vacation destination for remote workers and long-term travelers. If they don’t like it go to Maui or Oahu (better medical infrastructure), the state will still get revenue.

    Lastly, Kauai, remember, go high. Care for the lives of the people, care for the aina. And you’ll have better PR than New Zealand.

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