LIHU‘E — Wednesday, the county reported four new positive COVID-19 cases, including one adult visitor, two adult residents and one child resident.
Two cases are travel-related, and two are linked to community transmission.
As of Wednesday, there are 26 active cases, with 123 cumulative cases reported since the start of the pandemic.
“We have seen an unprecedented surge in new infections on our island, most of them associated with incoming visitors or residents returning from off-island travel,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said Wednesday as part of his COVID-19 briefing. “But we also have a worrisome number of community transmission cases. This means there is no identified link to a traveler. Kaua‘i has not seen this level of community transmission until now.”
This uptick in community spread has led to Kawakami’s Tuesday afternoon request to temporarily opt-out of the state’s Safe Travels program which allows fliers to bypass a two-week quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival into the state and county. If approved, this rule would take effect Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Taking action now, Kawakami said, is the only way to avoid a full shutdown or stay-at-home order.
“Yes, we all want to focus on our economic recovery, but our economy cannot and will not recover until we first get a hold of this virus,” Kawakami said. “Businesses will not stay open if their employees start getting sick.”
With a surge in cases on the Mainland, Kawakami suggested that keeping the island open without additional safeguards puts Kaua‘i in a vulnerable position.
“States along the West Coast are among our top visitor markets, and many of them are now returning to shutdowns and 14-day quarantines because of the incredibly high levels of disease,” he said. “Bringing sick people to our island won’t help our economy.”
In the period from March to Oct. 14, the county recorded 61 cases. Since the state’s Oct. 15 reopening, the county has recorded 62 coronavirus cases. Eight of these has have been attributed to community transmission and 49 linked to travel.
“I know this news may come as a shock to many, but we base our decisions on the data and guidance we receive from our health officials,” Kawakami said. “And the data for Kaua‘i is alarming.”
The temporary opt-out is the third request Kawakami has made to Gov. David Ige in the past month.
One request, to institute a policy to have their negative COVID-19 test uploaded to the Safe Travels app prior to flying. The county has recorded 14 cases of travelers who received positive pre-travel test results after arrival.
Ige has not responded to a local rule that proposed a mandatory post-travel test following a three-day quarantine. Without a negative test, the traveler would have to remain in quarantine for an additional 11 days. This is similar to a post-arrival test plan proposed prior to the Oct. 15 reopening that was denied by the state.
Since Oct. 15, the county has seen 30 travelers who tested negative for COVID-19 prior to travel and then tested positive once on Kaua‘i. Kawakami does not believe this rule will be approved.
“With this sharp rise, we are deeply concerned about our island’s ability to sustain this level of infection,” Kawakami said.