County sees flaws in state’s Safe Travels program

LIHU‘E — The county is attempting to fill gaps in and improve the state’s Safe Travels program that allows travelers to bypass a mandatory, two-week quarantine.

County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig confirmed that the county is “revisiting” a post-arrival test program that was denied by Gov. David Ige in October prior to the state’s reopening.

Recent COVID-19 spikes in the state and mainland are concerning, Dahilig said yesterday at a Kaua‘i County Council meeting to brief members on how the county is handling tourism in the age of COVID-19. He assured the council the administration is working on various plans.

“The discussion has not ended at this point,” Dahilig said, adding that the county is working with its attorneys on the request. “We need to remain vigilant in ensuring that we do not let the issues rest because there has been a decision in the past.”

A county spokesperson said in an email Thursday that they are working with the state on “adjustments or improvements (that) would be in line with the overall Safe Travels program.” An announcement could come as early as today.

“Given the situation on the mainland and increasing cases here at home, the county sees the need to make adjustments to the current (state Safe Travels) program,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The state’s pre-travel Safe Travels testing program allows travelers to bypass a still-instituted, two-week quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test through a state-trusted partner within 72 hours of arrival in the state. Among some of the issues with the state’s program is that travelers are taking tests through non-state partners or are receiving positive results after arrival in the state.

“For issues that can’t or won’t be addressed at the state level, Mayor Kawakami would consider proposing a local rule,” a spokesperson said.

Since the state reopened almost a month ago, the county has seen about 1,000 to 1,500 visitors daily, Dahilig reported. These numbers are expected to increase going into the holidays and winter months with the expectation of annual snowbirds flying down.

Lihu‘e Airport is receiving about nine trans-Pacific and 11 interisland flights per day, Dahilig said, which is also expected to go up as airlines ramp up numbers of flights.

Last month, the county purchased 15,000 rapid COVID-19 tests to be used in a program that would have required incoming travelers participating in the state’s pre-travel test to opt-out of the mandatory 14-day quarantine by taking a rapid test.

This program was denied by Ige and, instead, the county put those tests toward voluntary post-arrival testing programs. One is free to returning residents and the other costs about $150 for non-residents, who are then given about $150 in vouchers.

If a traveler comes into the county and receives a positive test, they are directed into isolation, which must be a hotel or motel for tourists or a home for a resident. The state Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office, along with the Kaua‘i Visitor’s Bureau, has helped coordinate isolation zones for those unable to make arrangements themselves.

The county’s isolation facility, the former Adolescent Healing and Treatment Center in Kapaia, is still in use by the state. Those staying there are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Dahilig said.

The county estimates that about 25% of incoming travelers are in quarantine, which is about 1,900 people being monitored by the Kaua‘i Police Department and Hawai‘i National Guard.

The county is still on its least-restrictive Tier 4, with a rolling seven-day average of 1.57 new positive cases reported. The county, with the guidance of the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office, began adding positive traveler cases to its case count. Typically, positive cases are added to the county of origin.

As of Thursday afternoon, the county had 16 active cases, including eight diagnosed off-island. To date, the county has seen 86 confirmed cases, one probable case and eight off-island cases. There are currently two hospitalized cases.

If the county hits a week daily average of two, it will enter Tier 3, which enforces stricter indoor and outdoor gathering sizes.

  1. Uncleaina November 13, 2020 6:46 am Reply

    The plan we have is the ultimate expression of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach that’s plagued Kauai for decades.

  2. ErdoganG November 13, 2020 7:35 am Reply

    I believe the number of arrivals reported in this article are not correct. If one goes to the data for daily arrivals kept by the state. The average number of arrivals in Kauai for November oscillate around 500/day with only one day above 1000 ( ~1050).

  3. randy kansas November 13, 2020 7:43 am Reply

    has anything been done, in the last 9 months, to improve our Kauai healthcare system and allow for increased need for more hospital beds and Covid care supplies in our clinics ?

    why not use some of the Federal money to improve our heath care ?

  4. Dr Jim November 13, 2020 1:34 pm Reply

    Mayor Kawakami and County Council –

    Why as the rest of the country goes into lockdown, are we still accepting travelers from these regions? I believe you have done a good job so far, and I understand the pressures of the economy. It is time for you to lead, and demonstrate care for your citizens. Re-implement a quarantine requirement for all travelers, before you create a situation of unsustainable demand on the healthcare system. When these sick tourists arrive, we are stuck with them in our fragile healthcare system because they can’t get on a plane and return home. We are importing problems that we cant just get rid of. This is a very real threat to our island!

    1. Reality Bites November 14, 2020 6:08 am Reply

      If you were a real doctor, then you would know lockdowns and quarantines for the 55 and below do nothing, except bankrupt the State, as the only industry is Tourism.

      Yep, keep cashing those government stimulus checks, let the government write blank checks, and keep printing all that money. What could go wrong?

      You think the roads are bad here now, the beach bathrooms are borderline cesspools, the county government gets nothing done now, long waits at every county office, and your property taxes won’t double in a couple of years???? You liberals just think that you can stay home while the government prints money for you to spend.

      Positive cases will NEVER be zero. What is the goal?!?! You have a better chance of dying driving on our joke of a 2 lane highway around this island. Stop the madness!!

    2. Michael November 14, 2020 6:23 am Reply

      Two simple modifications may help. First, the traveler’s pre-arrival results must be in the possession of the traveler upon their Kauai arrival. A pending result is worthless. Second, a mandatory 2nd test after arrival, should also be mandatory. Already we have seen positive tests in those who volunteer to obtain a 2nd test. How many of those who don’t volunteer are positive and go undetected. The current Safe Traveler’s program is actually, The Not-So-Safe Traveler’s program.

  5. judi glass November 13, 2020 9:11 pm Reply

    I agree with Dr Jim to implement the quarantine again. It may not be the best solution with respect to the economy, but until there is a vaccine and this is under control, our island is vulnerable. Tourism drives our economy but is it worth the risk of having the tourists? We cannot have both and once we have a huge outbreak ( which we will if nothing is changed ) then no one will be working in the tourism industry because they will be either in quarantine or hopefully recovering from the virus . If we are patient and continue to help our neighbors with all being done for those who need a little extra help, then we should be ok as a community. Kauai in the only place in the United States that is relatively safe. Everyone wants to be here … and we will welcome them once again ; but not now.

  6. Sabrina Bodon November 16, 2020 9:55 am Reply

    Aloha, The number included in this article is the combined number of interisland and trans-Pacfic travelers. For example, on Nov. 12, the state recorded 620 interisland and 820 trans-Pacific travelers, totaling to over 1200 arrivals, and Nov. 11, there were 793 interisland travelers and 856 trans-Pacific for almost 1650 incoming arrivals.
    I believe the numbers you are looking at only include trans-Pacific arrivals. To view interisland arrival rates, you can visit:
    Mahalo, Sabrina

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