LIHU‘E — As Kaua‘i temporarily opts-out of the Safe Travels pre-travel testing program, Mayor Derek Kawakami offered some insight into his reasoning.
Rule 23 puts Kaua‘i on a short-term moratorium on allowing travelers to bypass a two-week quarantine with a negative COVID-19 pre-test effective Wednesday, Dec. 2.
“We understand that a return to a mandatory quarantine will severely impact our visitor industry and those businesses that rely on our visitor industry,” Kawakami said Monday. “We have created many rules and guidelines over the course of the past seven months, and this particular decision was the most difficult.”
Kawakami requested the opt-out early last week, citing a surge of infections due to travel among visitors and residents, as well as community spread, and a spike in cases on the Mainland. The county has seen a two-week trend of cases increase by over 43%, he said.
Prior to the Safe Travels implementation, Kawakami pointed to Kaua‘i’s 61 cumulative cases. In the last six weeks, the county had an additional 70 cases. Monday, the county did not report any new cases.
“With several vaccines close to being approved and distributed, we cannot allow our community to become sick now. While the economic impact of the quarantine is severe, the economic impact of sickness and a subsequent shutdown would be much worse,” Kawakami said. “A healthy economy requires a healthy community, so we will continue to push the health and safety of our residents first and foremost.”
Kawakami has made two similar requests to Gov. David Ige to implement a post-arrival test, the most recent with a mandatory three-day quarantine. Since that was not approved, Kawakami requested the opt-out.
“Our preference has and continues to be implementing a mandatory post-travel test with a shorter quarantine period,” Kawakami said. “However, that request was denied and without that option, we had little choice but to take a temporary pause from the single pre-test travel program until the national incidence of disease is stabilized.”
The temporary opt-out, however, has some residents banding together against it, including the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, which mobilized its cohort of over 400 small businesses to write to Ige against the opt-out.
One online petition floating around, “Demand that Governor Ige Rescind His Approval of Kaua‘i Requiring Another 14 Day Quarantine,” had over 2,500 signatures as of Monday afternoon. Some comments mention a lack of assistance, suffering small businesses and questioning the legality of the quarantine.
Starting Wednesday, travelers must quarantine, negative pre-test or not when arriving on Kaua‘i. Residents, as well as visitors, may spend their two-weeks at private residences. However, in accordance with a past order, visitors may not stay in transient vacation or short-term rentals, like those found on Airbnb or VRBO. Visitors are also not allowed to rent cars until after the 14-day quarantine.
Travelers may also stay at an “Enhanced Movement Quarantine,” or resort bubble, property. Guests have use of on-site amenities, like golf courses, spas and dining facilities. Stays at these locations are monitored with tracking bracelets that if tampered with would alert security.
Participating bubbles include Cliffs at Princeville, Hilton Garden Inn, Koa Kea, Kukuiula and Timbers, with three other properties pending application approval, according to the county. To be part of this program, resorts must have safety protocols for each service or activity offered by a hotel, as well as employee-safety measures, provide personal protective equipment, airport shuttle services for travelers, and designated isolation areas.
Travelers can also stay at other hotels or motels but would be limited to their room. All food or supplies would need to be delivered to the door.
The Kaua‘i Police Department, assisted by the Hawai‘i National Guard, are currently tracking about 1,500 people in travel-related quarantine, the county reported Monday.
A modified quarantine program for interisland travelers is still in effect for essential workers and other “special circumstances,” which can be found on the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency website at kauai.gov/COVID-19.