LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council is throwing its weight behind Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request for the county to temporarily opt-out of the state’s Safe Travels program and institute a mandatory post-arrival test.
Wednesday, the council voted in favor of a resolution urging a pre-test and post-arrival test, voicing support of Kawakami’s request to temporarily opt-out of the state’s program that allows travelers to bypass a mandatory 14-day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival into the state.
In early October, prior to the state’s reopening, councilmembers penned letters to Gov. David Ige requesting additional safety precautions, like a six-day quarantine prior to a mandatory post-arrival test.
“When the travel precautions were coming online, there was a lot of movement … (and the council acted) a little late,” Chock said at Wednesday’s meeting. “This time around, as we’ve been monitoring the progress of the program, we’ve been seeing a need.”
One of the major concerns Councilmember Luke Evslin had is that the current one-test pre-test is not science-based, whereas a two-test system has been proven to catch more cases.
The state’s surveillance post-arrival test, randomly selected one out of 1,000 travelers, has not been completely effective in catching additional cases of COVID-19 in travelers. One report found that 15 per 1,000 arrivals tested positive on their fourth day in the state, which is above the 1 per 1,000 metric Lt. Gov. Josh Green suggested would be the case.
On Kaua‘i, of 62 new confirmed cases since the state’s reopening on Oct. 15, 30 of these individuals tested negative for COVID-19 prior to arrival and the tested positive once on island.
The resolution, jointly introduced by Chock and Evslin, effectively a non-legally binding letter, was partially inspired by Kawakami’s request earlier this month for a mandatory three-day quarantine and post-arrival test.
Evslin, who said the name Safe Travels is an “oxymoron,” likened the program to a sinking canoe, and the county must do everything in its power to get ahead of a dire situation.
County of Kaua‘i Managing Director Michael Dahilig confirmed that the county would need Ige’s permission to enforce a quarantine outside of the state’s programs, which was discouraging to Chock.
“Having O‘ahu leadership dictate what that is, is troublesome to me,” Chock said.
What he hopes with the resolution will bring the state and county together “and then adjust (the program) accordingly.”
“In the last two weeks, I’ve lost a friend and a classmate and here on island we’ve seen (loss). In every way, we’re feeling it,” Chock said. “(Reopening) is a moving target. Hopefully, the message is heard.”
On Tuesday, Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman penned an opinion piece in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser urging a moratorium on the Safe Travels program and fully institute the two-week quarantine through December. Earlier this week, Berreman said the county is at a “dangerous juncture” with community spread on the rise.
But the response elected officials are urging could have a “devastating impact on our County’s small businesses,” according to the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce.
Wednesday, the Chamber mobilized its cohort of over 400 small business to write to Ige to deny the county’s request.
“We appreciate and share concerns about the need to keep our community healthy and safe from COVID-19,” Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the Chamber, wrote. “However, many of our businesses will close if the Governor chooses to exempt Kaua‘i from Safe Travels.”