Kawakami requests Safe Travels pause

LIHU‘E — Mayor Derek Kawakami is asking Gov. David Ige to temporarily opt-out of the state’s Safe Travel program beginning Dec. 1.

Kawakami proposed the local emergency rule Tuesday in an attempt to level off an uptick in COVID-19 cases reported on the island.

“This is not just a tourist problem,” Kawakami said in a press release. “Nearly half of our recent travel cases are Kaua‘i residents who returned home.”

Since the state’s Oct. 15 reopening, the county has reported 58 new cases and its first on-island death, which was reported Monday. The majority of these cases, 50, were travel-related, 14 of which were diagnosed elsewhere.

The remaining 10 cases were deemed community spread among residents who did not travel, according to state Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office Officer Dr. Janet Berreman on Tuesday.

“We have not seen sustained community transmission in our county since July, so these cases are very concerning,” Berreman said in a press release. “It is clear that the Safe Travels program is not adequately protecting Kaua‘i from an alarming rise in cases.”

If Ige were to approve this opt-out, it would be a temporary pause in the county’s participation in the state’s pre-travel test program that allows fliers to bypass a 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test. This would be applied to residents and visitors coming from in or out of state. Modified quarantines would still be in place for essential workers.

This is the third of three rules Kawakami has submitted to Ige in the last two weeks.

One rule, to require fliers to upload their COVID-19 test prior to flying into the state, was instituted statewide and began Tuesday.

A second rule, to require a mandatory, post-arrival test following a three-day quarantine to be released, is still being considered by Ige.

“We know that a single, pre-travel test has not stopped the virus from reaching our island, and we are saddened to report our first on-island death,” Kawakami said. “We must take action to prevent the further spread of disease here.”

This third rule, to opt out, was prompted by Ige denying a mandatory post-arrival test for Kaua‘i in early October, prior to the Safe Travels program’s launch.

One of the goals of temporarily opting out would be to extend the lifespan of the county’s Tier 4 for residents, which is the least restrictive of four that determine which activities and businesses may be open based on positive case counts.

The county currently has a rolling, seven-day daily average of 3.2 cases, which is above the Tier 4 threshold of 2.0 new cases daily. If the county continues above 2.0 for two weeks, it will move to more restrictive measures, which it is on track to move by the first week of December.

“It makes no logical sense for us to move tiers while still allowing more travelers,” Kawakami said. “We shouldn’t penalize our local people by restricting activities, such as youth sports, when that’s not the current source of infection.”

The county settled on a Dec. 1 date in the proposed rule to give people time to adjust plans, “but soon enough to make necessary adjustments,” a spokesperson said.

Today, the Kaua‘i County Council will vote on a resolution urging Ige to allow the county to have a post-arrival test program.

If a post-arrival test program were to be allowed, the county has stated it would acquire additional tests for the program. The county is also considering other pandemic-response tactics used in the spring, like curfews and beach-park user fees.

“I don’t propose to know how to best manage the other counties or the state as a whole,” Kawakami said. “But our small, rural community here on Kaua‘i needs to take pause from an influx of travelers, and once again gain control of this virus as we had for so many months before. I will gladly repeal the rule once we achieve this goal.”


Sabrina Bodon, public safety reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

  1. Deborah Nantais November 24, 2020 4:43 pm Reply

    Mahalo Mayor! You are doing your best & we in Puhi& around the Island applaud your courage, your integrity & your Aloha for all of us ,especially the Seniors among us(me) that truly worried we will be exposed to these untested folks at every turn…in the stores, the mall, &the few restaurants that are open! I often feel like I take a great risk just going to buy
    some groceries! Im sure all the frontline workers also appreciate your courage and valor!
    Maybe by this time next week I will feel “safer” in going out to do my shopping& Im sure others appreciate it too!
    Mahalo again Mayor…we stand with you!

  2. KJ November 24, 2020 6:44 pm Reply

    It’s frustrating that after the mayor proposed his 4-tier system he has repeatedly tried to impose additional restrictions on top of it. We don’t know all that much more about the virus than we did when the mayor proposed the 4-tier system so I have a hard time understanding why he feels deviating from that plan is necessary, especially given that new daily cases remain in the single digits. The virus is taking a big enough toll as it is. Undermining predictability by constantly asking for changes after you already have a plan in place makes it impossible for families, businesses, and travelers to plan. Predictability at the governmental level is extremely important, especially in a free market society.

    1. Doug November 25, 2020 9:46 am Reply

      Had the Mayor’s original two test program been approved by the great and all knowing Ige, you would not be seeing any tiers (they were not in the original plan I believe) and you would have seen a smoother opening with less cases. Thank the governor and Lt governor for that!!

  3. Doug November 24, 2020 6:45 pm Reply

    Thank you Mayor!

  4. Thank you Deborah November 24, 2020 11:19 pm Reply

    Aloha Deborah, we’re so sorry you are living in livid fear of this virus. If tou are elderly and have 1 or more chronic degenerative end of life diseases, and are taking 2 or more toxic or even lethal prescription drugs then you have every right to be scared of dying, especially too because when you go to the hospital when you are sick, because medical errors cause 250,000 deaths a year.

    These medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in America after Heart disease and Cancer.

    You are almost 14 times more likely to die of medical errors in hospitals than the Covid-19 virus, but you’re not afraid to run to the hospital the minute you are sick or think you have the Covid-19 virus, in spite of the deaths by medical error.

    In fact, how many died when it was falsely claimed it was the Covid-19 virus that they died from, when it was actually hospital medical error; something doctors and hospitals are not quick to admit, especially when they can blame it on the Covid-19 virus, that the patient may or may or may not have.

    In fact Mayor Derek, seems to not have all the facts about the cause of the passing away of this elderly Kauai resident they are blaming Covid-19 virus for his death, what with only describing his condition as being elderly and apparently had the Covid-19 virus.

    Not only do we not know about any of his pre-existing disease conditions he may have had, or not has, nor if he was, or was not on any toxic and/or lethal prescription drugs he may have been on for months, years, or decades.

    Some scientists say it mat be safer if you were to get the Covid-19 virus naturally, than to be injected with the vaccine, along with its unknown side effects and reactions of a hastily manmade laboratory disease that is the vaccine. There is still no guarantee the vaccines will be safe. Are you ready to sign a liability waiver before being injected directly with the vaccine.

    Do you know all the ingredients in the vaccine?

    Vaccines are all patented and owned by pharmaceutical companies and their pseudo scientists looking for profit from their drugs and vaccines. There are no free vaccines, your tax dollars may be paying for them.

    You could probably take a free online course in Immunology and learn about all this at a deeper level. Remember too, the pharmaceutical companies using doctors as middle men, and women, sell 4.4 Billion drug prescriptions per year making them the biggest drug cartel in the world, and the richest drug cartel in the world sharing in $4 Trillion dollars a year in the cost of medical care.

    Try to always take the Natural Path…! It’s safer.

    1. Lizzy November 25, 2020 3:34 pm Reply

      Thank you Deborah
      May i ask where your citing from with regards to
      medical errors being the #3 killer of people in US?

      Im not saying its incorrect, im just curious…Seems unfathomable.
      I also would guess that it would be hard to get concrete facts as that would not be public knowledge for obvious reasons.
      I agree unfortunately with you on Big Pharma. Its awful. Medicine however has its place in the community. It really does. We cant ignore that disease has been eradicated by vaccines.
      Insta vaccines dont sound very enticing for me anyhow, when it should at least take a good 5 yrs to get a proper, well tested vaccine in order.
      Thanks for your post.


  5. Mounque Barazone November 25, 2020 4:27 am Reply

    I wrote once before about this. I am repeating. As a scientist and inventor shutting the island down to avoid positive travels and arrival and destroying the economy is not the way to go. Currently it is a test 3 days before departure. The mayor would like a 3 – 4 day quarantine and then a second test that is 2 tests in 6 to 7 days. That is fine for returning residents but not for the hospitality economy. It makes far more sense to have double testing for travelers before they depart. The cost is the same for paying for 2 tests. One 7 to 10 days before travel and lots of time to receive results and a second faster result test st 3 days before travel. This would eliminate a large percentage of those testing positive on the island with a second test on island. The residents of Kauai deserve to be kept as safe as possible and also to not be economically devastated. Since the mayor believes 2 tests would work better why wait for the second to be on island. Two tests before travel will do far more to limit the virus being brought to the island then one before and one after or imposing a quarantine which essentially stops tourists from coming, damages thousands of incomes, airlines and small businesses.

  6. Kama'aina November 25, 2020 6:07 am Reply

    Go or get off the pot mayor. You are in bed with both sides of every issue and your policies are half baked as a result. Make a plan. Stick to it. Let us decide if you are a good leader or not. As of now the only people I hear of thinking that you are leading our island in a good direction are the scared and the rich. Both groups are hoale. Us regular folks are not stoked. If you are going to destroy our economy do it already. If you are not stop the threats and let us do what is best for our community. You either trust the people of Kauai to do the right thing or you believe that we are too dumb to survive with out your teams wisdom. Either way pick a lane.

    1. Ashley November 25, 2020 5:11 pm Reply

      You write your name as Kama’aina and yet you spell haole wrong. It’s haole not hoale. Lol. Quit masking like you’re a local, we see through your stupidity. Btw, you got your facts backwards. Mayor Kawakami has tons of local support, his recommendations to quarantine visitors are what many locals want anyway. It’s obvious that Ige’s Safe Travels Program is anything but, as we can see from our rising COVID numbers. If continued unchecked, the cases will keep climbing and then it will be that much harder to get under control. For a small island like Kaua’i, that’s major. Kawakami sees this and is prepared to act before that happens.

  7. Krissy November 25, 2020 6:49 am Reply

    Kauai needs to focus on rapid testing when all locals and visitors arrive at the airports. Mayor needs to realize he is doing much more long term damage to his islands families and economies if he doesn’t allow us to work. Businesses are shutting down all around the island and peoples livelihoods are being crushed. Not to mention homelessness and suicide rates rising. Our economy depends on tourism and while some of you on island might be living comfortably, a majority of us are struggling like never before. Mayor needs to care about all of us, not just some of us. Lets get rapid testing going at airport upon arrival! I hope Governor shuts this proposal down. LET US WORK!

  8. Peter November 25, 2020 7:02 am Reply

    I’m so frustrated and sick and tired of D.K.’s constant special requests. There is no consistency, there is little ability to plan prudently if you’re a business person involved in the tourism industry. There is the constant threat that a group of politicians will shut down and cause more economic hardship.

    Why the emphasis on new cases as the criteria for another potential quarantine restriction?

    New cases today are very different to the new cases from several months ago. More people getting tested means more asymptomatic cases in a younger age group which do not require medical care.

    As of today there are 23 active cases in isolation with ZERO showing up as hospitalized. The tourism industry is open and there is less strain on the medical system today than there was three months ago. The system is working. If it’s working why change it ?

    1. KJ November 25, 2020 2:39 pm Reply

      “The tourism industry is open and there is less strain on the medical system today than there was three months ago. The system is working. If it’s working why change it?” Exactly!

    2. Ashley November 25, 2020 5:28 pm Reply

      If you haven’t noticed, cases are going up. First few weeks of safe travels we had 0-1 cases a day. That wasn’t even 2 months ago and now we’re trending towards 3-4 cases a day. It doesn’t take a genius to see the direction we are heading towards. Come one months time, if nothing changes, what do you people think our numbers will be like? Like I said before, it doesn’t take a genius…Obviously, the safe travels plan can be improved. At least Kawakami is taking the initiative and trouble shooting ideas rather than continuing with a wait and see approach which is clearly not working.

      1. KJ November 26, 2020 7:22 am Reply

        Well of course cases are going up, but they aren’t putting significant pressure on the medical system at this point. This is a pandemic (with an approximate infection fatality ratio of 1% in areas with a sizeable elderly population), so a system of prevention is necessary, but we must be willing to take some reasonable risks to buoy the economy. The more restrictive we are, the more our businesses will have to pay in unemployment insurance (which will put some out of business), the more poverty we will have, and the more debt our state will incur. That will all have real and profound impacts on our quality of life for years to come. The mayor’s 4-tier system set a reasonable balance. He should stick to it. I have a feeling the governor would be a lot happier to work with that systematic approach than having to deal with repeated requests for ad-hoc changes.

        1. Chris K November 26, 2020 5:32 pm Reply

          I’m curious if you work at the hospital? Because I happen to know that there have been plenty of cases that are admitted and have been on ventilators (daughter is a nurse there), but the hospital isn’t going to cry about it and scare people. Jesus, I keep feeling disappointed when I read posts like yours, but I am no longer surprised. Mayor Kawakami is looking out for Kauai and MINIMIZING RISKS. You don’t seem to mention anything about people taking risks when they go into business, but it’s okay to risk lives in a global pandemic for tourists to come buy from a business (which they are not currently doing). I’m sure you will continue to be fine with that risk you speak of until someone in your Ohana dies from Covid or has a $300k hospital bill from being in the ICU taking one of our few beds. smh…. $$ over lives is what you are promoting. I hope the gov approves our Mayor’s request and am thankful that he is looking out for the big picture of what will happen if we do get overwhelmed….that’s why he’s trying to prevent it.

          1. KJ November 27, 2020 8:17 am

            The fact that people are able to access the ventilators does not prove that significant pressure is being placed on the medical system. And the reason you keep reading posts like mine and Peter’s is because there are plenty of people who understand and agree with what we are saying – there are real and significant consequences to ad-hoc travel restrictions.

  9. Keoni November 25, 2020 7:23 am Reply

    I love the enthusiasm Mr. Mayor and applaud your efforts but your comment on controlling C-19 is laughable in the sense you think you are going to stop this. The sooner you prepare for the inevitable the better we as locals will be. Did you say we only have 9 ICU prepared beds on the island? I suggest you sort that out sooner rather than later. My beef is shouldn’t you have been preparing over the last nine months. Brah all I see is National guard guys going thru every neighborhood tracking, tracing, and basically not able to “control” the virus. Again, you had better prepare for the inevitable because the lock downs are killing us locals even more so than the virus. Just one Hawaiians opinion.

  10. Makaala November 25, 2020 7:25 am Reply

    Mahalo Mayor for putting the safety of Kauai’s people above the almighty dollar. Yes we will struggle but life and safety is more important. We will have a vaccine soon and hopefully then we can open travel again. Don’t understand why people want to travel now anyway. Thats crazy! and very selfish!

    1. nobody November 26, 2020 8:40 am Reply

      Easy to say when you live on handouts.

  11. John Patt November 25, 2020 7:49 am Reply

    God bless you Mr Mayor.

  12. Paul Loizeaux November 25, 2020 8:42 am Reply

    If Kauai can become a coronavirus free island we would be one of the primo travel destinations in the world. Tourists coming here (after an initial negative test) should not mind 3 or 4 days of quarantine in return for being safe. And we could make it a business opportunity–each tourist area could have its local “Grubhub” to deliver food to quarantineers (and to local residents in that area). Kauai could set up several testing vans to go to main hotels or tourist areas to administer the second test. The hotels could set up separated quarantine areas where only those under quarantine could be allowed to use some recreational facilities (wrist bands for id and enforcement) (and advertising possibilities at these mobile vans.)

  13. Susan November 25, 2020 9:22 am Reply

    All the comments here are thanking Kawakami for doing what he should have done from the get-go: stand up to Ige and their overlords in the tourism industry. It’s like thanking someone for not murdering you.

    Kawakami could have controlled this virus from the outset – and he did at the very beginning – but then politics and $$$ got thrown into the equation and of course he buckled under pressure, because he wants their support next election.

    But all this could have been prevented, so I don’t understand why you guys are licking Kawakami’s boots!

    1. Kimo Kane November 25, 2020 7:27 pm Reply

      People before profits! Thank you Mayor.

  14. Uncleaina November 25, 2020 10:08 am Reply

    Aloha Mayor- I know you’re getting a lot of pressure from the business community but honestly they had their chance and it didn’t materialize. The facts show not nearly enough tourists are coming to support the idea of being open. In fact during October when we were fully open 76% less people came than previous years. And this thing that Ige is doing is insane. Give the neighbor islands control of their own health care Governor Ige!! I can’t fathom why he’s not already done this unless he has some personal gain. Everyone needs to read about Durango CO during the pandemic of 1918 and you’ll see the parallels to Kauai.

  15. Spatial November 25, 2020 12:34 pm Reply

    I’m for it, as long as you also pause my rent, food, gas, insurance, credit card and phone bills. Also, I lost my health insurance from being laid-off from the 1st shut-down and need four consecutive weeks of employment to qualify for a work sponsored plan. Another shut-down will endanger my attempts at gaining health care that I cannot afford otherwise. You aren’t keeping everyone safe. Please find another way…

  16. Jimmy November 25, 2020 3:11 pm Reply

    How many lives does the flu take in Kauai County each year? The answer… 16 in 2018. That is 16 times the number of deaths that COVID has caused on island. Enough is enough! Let’s not let politicians play games anymore and destroy Kauai’s economy. Those of you who are afraid, don’t be. Live your lives. You are more likely to die in an accident on the way to the grocery store than contracting COVID and dying. So maybe you shouldn’t drive either? …Sarcasm intended.

    1. Jake November 25, 2020 10:58 pm Reply

      Critical thinking, for most of the USA, is a lost art these days. 450K die a year from smoking cigarettes, yet “da government” doesn’t bat an eye. 25K die of second hand smoke. What a joke of leadership in this country.

  17. Peter November 26, 2020 6:40 am Reply

    New cases today aren’t what they were a few months ago. If none of the new cases today are severe enough to require hospitalization why threaten to cause more economic hardship ???
    Why the focus on new cases, why not use the number of hospitalizations as the criteria for further restrictions ???

  18. Concerned Citizen November 26, 2020 7:28 pm Reply

    Ige should reject these requests without a concrete plan to re-open the island.

    Kauai has had nine months and $28 million in CARES funds to come up with an economic recovery plan – whether that be getting tourist dollars back on the island, increasing capacity at Wilcox so that hospital capacity is less of an issue, or diversifying the economy so that tourists don’t need to be back for the interim.

    Instead, this money was primarily given to non-profits, testing supplies, and gift cards for tourists. That strategy is fine to tread water, but as the crisis drags on, this money is better spent on expenditures that have a bigger impact on jump starting the economy. Getting Wilcox set up with additional beds and ventilators on a temporary basis would be a big step. Why not try to lure well paid tech folk from the Bay Area and Seattle, many of whom are trapped in small apartments in urban areas, with discounted rooms or rentals where they can quarantine and work for 14 days, followed by a vacation? That would inject a significant amount of money back into the island.

    CARES money and unemployment insurance runs out on January 1. Kawakami cannot simply shut the island down again without a plan to re-open it. Otherwise, the folks who are dependent on tourist dollars – tour operators, wait staff, line cooks, housekeepers, front desk staff, etc are literally going to be left without a lifeline. This whole “keep it shut” plan without any economic development component is one reason why Congress doesn’t want to pass a phase II of the CARES act.

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