Community transmission on the rise on Kaua‘i

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.”

  1. Joshua Beadle November 24, 2020 4:19 am Reply

    Why are we asking Ige to implement a life / economy saving Two Test Protocol? Just do it! If there’s some form of law that allows an ancient, out of touch Governor total control over Kauai, then sue him now.
    Ige, like Trump, is clearly out of his depth with this pandemic. I just don’t understand how a “representative democracy” comes down to one 70+ year old man making critical decisions about life and death, when they have zero training or aptitude in the subject. Ige has been wrong every step of the way.
    Time for our Leaders in Kauai to start Leading. That is, unless they’re trying to play nice with State party bosses since our local leaders might have political ambitions far beyond sleepy Kauai.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way. The time for a CV Protocol which protects Kauai residents is NOW!!

  2. Hapa Girl November 24, 2020 5:52 am Reply

    The new safe travel rules are a step in the right direction. In addition, the Mayor needs to crack down on ALL locals who ignore wearing of masks when they leave their hale. This behavior MUST be corrected or every restriction you put on travelers no matter. To simple to put ALL the blame on travelers.

    Everywhere I go, to the store or to the shore I see my Kamaaina not wearing masks, having in groups that don’t look like family members… Lolo risky behaviors all around the island. The idea that it don’t matter for some because you have a steady income or you got those nice
    unemployment/stimulus money to be ok is ignorant and selfish. I feel for some this justifies the no let them come here with Covid attitude. All Pau on that talk.

    There are lives lost, small businesses that went bust and we must think of our neighbors, friends, loved ones when we take the time to do our part and no gather, mask. up, wash your hands, stay inside if you are sick, and be united in our fight to stop the spread!

    1. jake November 24, 2020 7:40 pm Reply

      More people will have to die, Hapa, before things change. When have you ever known a local to change course unless a brick lands on his/her head? When the kapuna who pay their rent, insure their cars, babysit their kids while they’re at work, or take the into their homes start dying from this thing, maybe then they’ll get the message. Largely it is young people who don’t observe masking and distancing who are driving the virus. Tourists are now pouring gasoline on the flame.

  3. nobody November 24, 2020 6:05 am Reply

    All it takes is one careless person to turn your bubble into a cluster.

    Many people are not that good with math and logic.

  4. Doug November 24, 2020 8:08 am Reply

    “We have not seen community transmission in our county since July”

    That would be because due to our efforts we haven’t had Covid on the island until now. Travelers brought it here and continue to do so, don’t blame the community (including the Micronesians) for spreading Covid. How much do we have to give up for one test travelers? We were on track for a good Thanksgiving and Christmas before October 15th, now that’s out the window. Mahalo travelers! We need the second test now!

  5. John November 24, 2020 10:55 am Reply

    Let’s just make something clear: Kawakami nor Ige are “concerned” about community spread. They were warned by health experts and scientists that this would happen if they opened fragile Kauai back up to tourism without second tests or mandatory quarantines, yet they still went ahead with their fatal plan.

    BECAUSE it’s all part of their bigger plan to keep the working class of Kauai sick and oppressed and forced to accept the most menial jobs for the lowest wages serving the upper classes (including Kawakami and his wealthy donor base). Use your heads, people! Only by standing up to these rich jerks will we be able to protect and take care of our own.

  6. Dr Jim November 24, 2020 11:12 am Reply

    18 cases and one death in 4 days. That’s 4.5 cases per day average. Do we expect that number to go down? We have had more cases on the island in the 5 weeks since ending the quarantine than we had in the previous 8 months. I believe today we will be reporting more cases including a teacher and student in one of our local schools.

    How many more people do we need to entice to leave areas of high infection with a “negative test” just to arrive here with COVID? Large parts of the country are in various phases of restriction but we are letting them come here with no restrictions. This seems irresponsible. We know that a single test does not exclude disease, and second test 3 days later (especially when its voluntary) does little to exclude disease. If we are using these tests to detect disease (Positive Predictive Value), great. But, if we are using these to exclude disease (Negative Predictive Value- meaning a negative result is interpreted as you are disease free), we are wasting these tests. That is not what the result means, and it should not allow you unrestricted access to the general population of this island. We need tests to be at least 7 days apart to bring case numbers down to a level that can be managed with contact tracing and that will not overwhelm our limited medical system.

    How far do we have to go with this idiocy before we see that our testing program is no more effective than other islands (ie. Tahiti) whose programs failed miserably? Single tests performed immediately before events couldn’t keep the disease out of the White House. Why do we think a test given 3 days before travel when you can then go about your life anyway you want for up to three days, then get on a plane with people that don’t yet have their (sometimes positive) test result and have also been walking around doing as they please, is going to be remotely effective? Why don’t we model ourselves after an island that has gotten it right and eliminated community spread, New Zealand. They have a 14 day mandatory quarantine, and while cases get onto the island, by and large there has been very limited spread of disease in the community. Translated that means that people willing to put up with a temporary hardship can then live their lives without significant risk and in a relatively normal way (kids going to school, seeing your elderly relatives, shopping in a normal environment, eating in restaurants).

    New Zealand health officials have just documented a single presymptomatic COVID infected traveler infected 4 other passengers on a long flight with rigorous mask and glove requirements in place. In New Zealand all of these cases were caught by a 14 day quarantine preventing infections from entering the community. We aren’t even pretending to do that. Each person that shows up here either with a positive diagnosis either on arrival (suprise!) or diagnosed later has already had the opportunity to spread the disease further during the long transoceanic flights, before even interacting with the community.

    If we stopped travel completely now, and reinstituted a lockdown, we would still see our case numbers increase for 2 weeks. Our hospitalizations and potentially deaths will increase for 2 weeks beyond that. It will take 4 to 6 weeks from now for the number of infections to fall back to where they are today. Do we really need to increase our burden of cases and community spread of disease further?

    Mayor Kawakami, we don’t need to wait 2 weeks to figure out where that “rolling average” is going. Restricting indoor gatherings to ten people and cutting the number in a party at a restaurant from 25 to 10 is not going to solve the problem, though it may slow the community spread.

    Opt out of the pretesting. If Governor Ige is committed to making his legacy the decimation of Hawaii by COVID, we cant control that. But our Mayor and Council do have the ability to protect this island. Exercise that ability. I suspect that in short order the governor will approve a 7 day two test system which would drastically reduce but not eliminate infections from being introduced to the island. In the meantime we will be all the safer with the two week quarantine.

  7. truth be known November 24, 2020 12:18 pm Reply

    I suggest that our Mayor should give the governor a deadline date, the sooner the better, to approve the two test and 3 day quarantine mandate. If the governor fails to act, our Mayor should immediately opt of of the governor’s irresponsible plan and implement adequate safeguards for our island. Failure to do this will doom our island’s reputation as being a safe haven for responsible visitors and create an epidemic among our residents. Mayor Kawakami, the ball is in your court. Make the necessary decisions or run the risk of becoming known as Mayor “Kamikaze”, the man who brought unnecessary death and destruction to our island. Make the right choice for all of us.

  8. Tracy November 24, 2020 4:48 pm Reply

    Park fees? For what? Polihale is still closed. No access on the base. Why do we continue to pay taxes on the West Side????
    I for one have had enough. Open our beaches. If DLNR can’t handle maybe they should not get paid like people who ARE NOT ALLOWED TO WORK. Maybe close a North Shore park and open Polihale. Never happen! Screw our leaders.

  9. jake November 24, 2020 7:35 pm Reply

    I noticed that Skydive Kauai is back in business. So how do five people crammed into a tiny
    airplane, then jump out strapped to a parachutist observe social distancing? Yeah, let me strap myself to a mainland tourist and see if I get home that evening without catching the ‘rona.

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