Do everything we can to protect ourselves

Today is the day. At 6:44 a.m., Hawaiian Airlines flight 123 will arrive from Honolulu, presumably bringing the first tourists to enter Kaua‘i under Gov. David Ige’s new policy of allowing people who have had a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours to avoid quarantine.

Then, at 2:01 p.m. this afternoon, United Airlines flight 1684 will taxi to the gate to conclude the first nonstop from the mainland since the controversial single test procedure took effect. It will be coming from San Francisco.

In stark contrast to typical days at Lihu‘e Airport during COVID, today’s arrival board is full—with about 20 flights from Honolulu, Maui and various mainland airports, as distant as Boston.

The total number of tourists who may arrive today is unknown. On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green speculated at a news conference that the tourism startup will be gradual. He estimated that about 3,000 tourists per day will enter the state. There is no projection of how many of them will be coming to Kaua‘i.

The arrivals will, of course, include inter-island travelers who live on Kaua‘i and are returning and residents of other islands coming here. Many of them will be doing so for work.

The new flood of visitors and tested returning Hawai‘i residents takes Kaua‘i into uncharted waters. It is a day virtually everyone who lives here has anticipated with a mix of fear, anger and anticipation. There is no question that the return of tourists will help relaunch Kaua‘i’s devastated economy. What isn’t known is what else the surge will do.

It will take a while to get Kaua‘i back to 1,000 visitor arrivals a day. But Dr. Lee Evslin is already worried about what that level will mean. “If we have 1,000 arrivals a day coming, (there would be) three infected per day, meaning 90 (new COVID cases) a month cruising into our island,” Evslin said, one of the organizers of the Kaua‘i COVID-19 Discussion Group. By contrast, Kaua‘i has reported just 59 total COVID cases and no deaths since the pandemic began.

On Friday, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami agreed there is widespread concern, and even fear, on Kaua‘i about the restart of tourism, but, he said, “you’re dealing with a community that is (experiencing) a lot of anxiety. Whenever you have any level of fear or uncertainty, these kinds of emotions can arise.

“I realize that, right now, people may have feelings about the risks that visitors may bring. But we as a community pose as big a risk (to ourselves), if not bigger, as anyone else. I would like to remind people that they should not base their reactions on fear.”

Rosemary Vali, a longtime resident of Wainiha on the remote North Shore, said her neighbors are anxious because of the uncertainty of Ige’s reopening orders which has not clarified the status of transient vacation rental properties. Many, she said, rely on the hospitality industry for their livelihoods and are perplexed that the governor has not clarified the status of TVRs.

“There are too many of them (TVRs) here,” Vali said, but nonetheless most residents don’t discuss the reception visitors are likely to encounter. “Most of us don’t even broach the subject,” she said.

County Councilmember Luke Evslin agreed that community anxiety may be broadly based. Evslin is the son of Dr. Lee Evslin. “If we got a two-test system, I think everyone on Kaua‘i would be welcoming visitors with open arms. One of my big fears with what feels like a premature reopening is that there could be hostility. People are frustrated and scared.”

Some in the community have speculated that physical confrontation between residents and visitors may develop. While Police Chief Todd Raybuck declined through a spokesperson to discuss ways the impending reopening could play out, County Prosecutor Justin Kollar discounted the possibility of actual confrontation.

“I think residents are understandably frustrated and anxious with the situation,” Kollar said. “I think it results from frequently shifting messaging and ever-changing policy we hear from the state level. It makes people feel like their leaders are not protecting them and that puts a lot of stress on people.

“There’s a community consensus that leaders at the county level have handled this pandemic well and the idea that the decisions are going to be made on O‘ahu instead of locally justifiably worries people. That said, I am not worried that our residents will react with violence. That is not who we are here.”

It was a sentiment that the mayor echoed. “Any kind of profiling or stereotyping or judging people is not acceptable,” he said. “That is not who we are as a community. We are a melting pot because of our differences.”

Kawakami said he hopes residents will realize that “we can be as safe as we decide to be.” He said the imminent arrival of tourists doesn’t change the basics that masking, physical distancing, personal hygiene and avoiding large gatherings remain the most effective COVID precautions.

County Councilmember Felicia Cowden said the situation has the potential to become an “ugly scene.”

“I am worried,” Cowden said, “that we will have a lack of elegance in how people are received. I think there is a lot of tension and hostility in the island right now.”

She said she was concerned about “the way the decision-making process played out on whether to require one or two tests and varying lengths of time in quarantine worsened the situations of many businesses.

“Businesses are worried about what if we open and then have a resurgence a month from now. We’ve taken a real big lesson on that from O‘ahu.”

The latitude to react to increases in caseloads, which is what Kawakami’s tiered reopening plan attempts, “is something we have to have as an ultimate last resort if we can’t maintain safety,” Cowden said.

Kaua‘i residents must keep their eyes on the ball. What’s important is that we all keep doing everything we can to protect ourselves.

And we should also insist that visitors observe all of these same procedures and respect our need to maintain our own safety and that of our friends and family member.

At a news conference on Maui a couple of days ago, that county’s district health officer, Dr. Lorrin Pang, had words that have just as much bearing on Kaua‘i as they do there. Mainland locations where many tourists will come from, Pang said, have “plenty of cases, but we kind of have to open up to business again.”

Visitors, he said, “have all kind of weird attitudes. Try to be nice and understanding. Some will be very cooperative. With the others, don’t ostracize them. Don’t give them stink eye. We will focus on those.”

•••

Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident, furniture-maker, journalist and retired public-relations executive who writes periodically for The Garden Island.

11 Comments
  1. 1,000 Miune October 15, 2020 6:09 am Reply

    That’s right, to avoid being infected by a visitor, be sure to get in their face, up real close, and argue the merits of their not visiting Kaua’i, just be sure to wear at least 2, or make it 3 masks, if gonna be only 2 feet from their face.

    Maybe better to Aloha them, and protect yourself from the virus by not eating the current epidemic of snack food, soda, and sugar in your every bite of the food you choose.

    Ultimate personal protection comes from the capability of your own immune system, so don’t burden your immune system with junk food, fast food, sugar, food additive chemicals; including petrochemicals which are carcinogenic chemicals, read your food labels, you just might find food in your chemicals.

    It’s not so much about incoming visitors and returning residents, it’s about your own internal resistance to any disease bacteria or virus.

    Prescription drugs also burden the immune system due to their toxic and sometimes lethal chemicals. See the TV drug ads for what side effects can do to you.


  2. "The new flood of visitors" ? October 15, 2020 7:37 am Reply

    “The new flood of visitors”? really? i mean, i hope there is, since so many of us rely on visitors to keep our intricately connected economy afloat.
    as for quoting Dr. Evslin -he’s a pediatrician. listen to those who are actually practicing around covid patients and have first-hand knowledge of the effects of this virus and effective protocols. It’s difficult to see how Dr Evslin, a small-town pediatrician, knows these important things.
    and if you are so fearful, stay home. the rest of us have work to do.


  3. Makani B. Howard October 15, 2020 9:12 am Reply

    We are doomed!

    We will be shut down within a month.


  4. Kauaidoug October 15, 2020 9:24 am Reply

    So here we are opening our economy up with mainland infection rates up everywhere!
    Sorry I just don’t feel I can be too welcoming knowing I might be talking with one if not all three of the thousand. Chances are small but how many times have we said what a small island this is.
    And that 3 out of a thousand was based on then infection rates and the rate continues to increase which increases our infected, possibly presymptomatic or not, rate here.
    I think they should be correct that some residents will be hostile, I hope not but these first tourists especially are not coming here to share their dollars with us! I am afraid the opening like this only shows we will slip back into the same old worship of commerce.

    The Hawaiians greeted James Cook and traded with him gladly because they didn’t know any better. What’s our excuse?


    1. JB October 15, 2020 5:54 pm Reply

      Wear a mask and wash your hands and practice social distancing and you will be just fine. Please be considerate of the people who are losing their livelihood due to this awful pandemic. Let’s all try to work together in keeping Kauai safe. closing the island forever is not the solution. mask, social distancing and hand washing will keep it at bay. Strengthen your immune system if possible. Or best to stay at home. that is what most people in the other states are doing that are worried.


  5. Ashley October 15, 2020 4:06 pm Reply

    I hope everyone is stocked up on TP because COVID is coming to Kauai. Goodbye, 0 new cases. Parents, be prepared for schools to close again. Food for thought, Tahiti imposes a 2 test travel system, they had 62 cases prior to opening its borders to travel in July. Even with testing prior to travel and 4 days after, their Covid cases ballooned from 62 cases prior to opening, to 3,252 cases today. The wave is coming Kauai. I hope you’re prepared.


  6. curious dog October 15, 2020 7:02 pm Reply

    RL52 Monk Seal found shot to death in Anahola in Sept. $20,000 reward!

    Protect yourselves from yourselves…can’t blame this on the tourist.

    https://www.khon2.com/local-news/young-monk-seal-found-shot-to-death-along-kauais-shoreline-information-wanted/


  7. WOH October 15, 2020 7:29 pm Reply

    I assume the politicians on Kauai have the best interests of their constituents in mind. They made a decision to lockdown the economy early on and it appears to have been successful. It seems that the best approach is to stay the course and maintain the fourteen day isolation for all arriving persons. The problem is that there is no end game if this is done. The people of Kauai will inevitably have to face the virus. The policies being pursued to open the island will likely prove confusing and add too much uncertainty for the short term tourist. I doubt the bulk of the of knowledgeable tourists will want to risk losing money or having a miserable time on island. Please let me know when you are ready to receive visitors without equivocation and with aloha spirit.


  8. Steve October 16, 2020 2:18 am Reply

    Most agree between 1 to 3 infected but not detected individuals will get through per 1,000 arrivals.

    And eventually, some of them will spread to others in the community as no one debates it takes 4+ days before any test will detect most infections.

    There is a reasonable argument that these infected travelers will make less of an overall difference to Oahu.

    Unfortunately, infected travelers will make ALL the difference to Maui, moving toward elimination, and Kaua’i with likely no active cases.  For those two islands, with about 250,000 people, we are actively and knowingly inserting multiple “patient zeros” into their virtually virus free communities.  Add in the Big Island and we are at 475,000 people – one third of our state.

    For whatever reason, our leaders (state and county) are not sufficiently acknowledging, with actions, how different the neighbor islands are from Oahu.  They are all opening up in essentially the same manner (dropped quarantine), at the same time – even though case numbers and medical capacity are a fraction of Oahu’s.

    The neighbor island mayors should reverse course immediately. The risk to their islands is massively disproportionate relative to Oahu.


  9. J.D. October 16, 2020 6:18 am Reply

    Most people have mild or no symptoms.


  10. so much fear October 16, 2020 8:09 am Reply

    “There are too many of them (TVRs) here,” Vali said

    really? i wonder if her friends and neighbors, many of whom rely on TVRs for income, share this bias.
    also, unlike hotels, TVR homes in Haena & Wainiha are naturally distanced from others, with no common spaces. Does Rosemary fear visitors, who’ve tested negatively, will somehow send Covid to her?
    is her hatred for others and their way of life a reflection of racism or something else?
    where does this animosity come from, exactly?
    could it be due to the massive property taxes and GET & TAT taxes collected that benefit her?
    someone please explain …


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