LIHU‘E — The county has not ruled out opting out of the state’s pre-travel testing program, County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig briefed the Kaua‘i County Council Wednesday.
“We cannot legally do anything to force a quarantine again and a 72-hour test without the Governor’s approval,” Dahilig said.
Next week, incoming travelers to the state can bypass the mandatory two-week quarantine with evidence of a negative U.S. Food and Drug Administration-authorized NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) result from a certified lab administered within 72 hours of arrival to the state.
Gov. David Ige denied Kaua‘i County’s two-test program proposal that would have required all travelers, interisland and trans-Pacific, to take a second COVID-19 test no sooner than 72 hours after arrival to the island to avoid the quarantine. The test would have been at the expense of the traveler and from a 15,000 rapid test supply the county purchased.
With this denial, Ige gave the islands the option to opt-out of the pre-test program and continue to enforce a 14-day quarantine.
On Tuesday, Mayor Derek Kawakami said there’s too much left unanswered to choose to opt-out just yet.
“Decisions must be deliberate and we can’t commit to plans we don’t fully understand,” Kawakami said. “Our goal from the beginning has been to supplement the Governor and Lt. Governor’s statewide travel plan. The option to opt out is a recent development.”
Kawakami said the state denied the two-test program because it wanted “consistency across the board, so visitors would not be confused.”
“We need more details on what an ‘opt out’ means for the counties, and whether that provides the option for us to implement a single-test post-arrival program,” he said.
Kawakami said that Lt. Gov. Josh Green has “committed” to enhanced testing, like a surveillance testing program that focuses on using testing capacity on first responders, people coming back from college and other high-risk groups following the Oct. 15 reopening.
Kawakami said he doesn’t want to “extend a mandatory 14-day quarantine in perpetuity.” On Wednesday, he acknowledged how up-in-the-air the situation is.
“We recognize that the uncertainty is a big problem for our community, and we are trying to reach a resolution as soon as possible,” he said. “We will announce any updates as details are confirmed.”
Dr. Fauci weighs in
Interviewed by Green on Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said that testing can be split into two buckets.
The first, when a person is symptomatic or has been exposed which is a more sensitive test. The second, he said, is for surveillance using a less sensitive test.
“The reality is, no matter what you do, there are going to be infected people who slip through the cracks,” Fauci said. “The critical issue is that you have such a low level of infection right now, that you should be able to handle and prevent that from blipping up.”
Fauci said a two-week quarantine can be harmful to the economy.
“A fourteen-day quarantine in a location that depends on tourism is a real tough one because most people have two weeks of vacation, and they don’t want to spend it locked up in a hotel no matter how beautiful,” Fauci said. “You don’t want to go and quarantine everybody.”
Fauci suggested that a cheap rapid test, while not as sensitive, can be used to weed out potential threats.
“You’re not going to get everybody, but statistically you’ll dramatically diminish an infected person entering,” he said. He also liked Green’s surveillance program.
At Wednesday’s county meeting, Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro and councilmember Luke Evslin both voiced their discouragement by the state’s lack of collaboration with the county.
Individually, members said they would be drafting and sending letters to the Governor, but Kaneshiro said he doesn’t think it’ll have much weight.
“I’ll be truthful, letters and resolution will do the same thing,” Kaneshiro said. “If it changes the Governor’s mind, I don’t think it will.”
Councilmember Mason Chock already wrote to Ige on Oct. 5, asking the state to reconsider.
Chock noted that travelers could enter the state infected under the pre-test program with a negative test leading to an adverse
“When additional cases are added to the infections already int he community, it will cause untold harm to the people and economy of Hawai‘i, potentially overwhelming the State’s already challenged health care resources, especially on Kaua‘i, leading to ill health, loss of life, suppression of the non-tourism economy, disruption of every aspect of life in Hawai‘i and another shutdown and economic disaster.”
Chock writes that doctors support a second test after six days of quarantine and that a two-test plan.
“I strongly recommend your favorable reconsideration of a science-based 2-test plan or a proven science-based multi-test antigen plan and take the time to develop a comprehensive defense against the entry of COVID-19 into the State and the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” Chock wrote.
Residents have taken to an online petition, calling for Ige to reconsider.
The petition titled “Re-open Hawaii travel with a 3-day waiting period!” had 1,192 signatures Wednesday night.
“Many of those who love Kaua‘i are familiar with how important it is to remain calm and steady in high surf. COVID has the power of those waves, and it has brought the world to its knees,” petition creator Matthew Kievlan wrote.
Kievlan started the petition to protect the health of his family and community, he said in an email Wednesday.
“The community has shared the petition on Facebook, so that we went from five signatures in the first two hours, to 1,100 signatures in the first two days,” he said.