LIHU‘E — The county is seeing a rise in community transmission, and officials are concerned with the holidays coming up.
“We have not seen community transmission in our county since July,” Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said Monday. “This is alarming. It is especially alarming as we plan for Thanksgiving celebrations and gatherings just a few days from now.”
Berreman said the county is at a “dangerous juncture.”
“Case counts are rising, as we knew they would. The rising travel cases have translated into new cases of community transmission,” Berreman said, pointing out that an increase in case counts are a “reflection of increased travel from the Mainland, where coronavirus is raging.”
“We know that social gatherings are a primary source of disease transmission: the more gatherings we have, and the larger they are, the more our cases will rise,” Berreman said.
The key to a safe holiday season, Berreman said, is to not celebrate with anybody outside of household members or people who have recently traveled.
“If you must have non-household members or travelers in your home for Thanksgiving, make sure everyone stays masked, that you maintain social distance, frequently wash hands, and hold activities outdoors,” Berreman said. “When masks are off for eating and drinking, non-household members and travelers must put extra distance between themselves and others.”
Monday, the county reported its first on-island COVID-19 fatality of an elderly man with no travel history.
Since reopening on Oct. 15, the county has seen 53 new cases, 43 being travelers. This accounts for 24 visitors and 19 residents, Berreman reported Monday. Many had negative pre-travel tests but became infectious on-island, including 12 who received positive COVID-19 tests after arrival.
Tuesday, the state will begin requiring travelers participating in the Safe Travels pre-test program to upload their COVID-19 test before flying into the state. Without a test, flyers will go into a two-week quarantine and not be able to bypass it.
“That is a step in the right direction, but we do not believe it is adequate to protect our community from the spread of this disease,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said in his Daily COVID-19 Update video.
Last week, Kawakami asked Gov. David Ige to allow the county to institute a mandatory post-travel test at least three days after arrival, with a mandatory quarantine until a negative post-test can be confirmed. Kawakami said Ige is still considering the proposal, but the county is moving forward with collecting additional tests should this rule go forward.
“If our request is denied, we are considering other protective measures we could propose to bolster the state’s program and address our island’s unique needs,” Kawakami said.
Last Friday, a county spokesperson said some options being considered are similar to early pandemic responses, like a curfew and beach park fees.
Tomorrow, Kaua‘i County Councilmembers Mason Chock and Luke Evslin will introduce a resolution urging the state to revise the reopening plan for the county.
The resolution urges Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green to adopt the two-test plan and “take the time to develop a comprehensive defense against entry of COVID-19 into the state.”
“COVID-19 is spreading in our community right now,” Berreman said. “This Thanksgiving season rolls right into the Christmas season, and we don’t want to remember the 2020 holidays as the season when we lost control of this pandemic.”