LIHU‘E — All four county mayors have agreed on a new, unified, Safe Travels modification, and are awaiting word from Gov. David Ige.
The joint proposal would require incoming trans-Pacific travelers to take a pre-travel test as well as a post-arrival test three to four days after arrival, Mayor Derek Kawakami said Friday.
Kawakami said the temporary opt-out of the Safe Travels program was to get ahead of a spike in cases in the county. Since Wednesday, the county has been enforcing a 14-day, mandatory quarantine of all travelers, regardless of pre-travel or post-travel tests, residency or where they are traveling from.
“Our hope is to avoid a lockdown on our island and continue in Tier 4, which is the least-restrictive tier,” Kawakami said. “The suspension on the Safe Travels program is intended to be temporary, and we fully expect there will be modifications.”
At this time, traveling between islands will remain on the current Safe Travels program, if this new proposal is approved.
“The joint proposal by the mayors is specific to trans-Pacific travelers, so the assumption is that inter-island travel would remain on the current Safe Travels program,” a county spokesperson said Friday.
Friday, the county had no new infections of COVID-19 to report. As of that afternoon, there are currently 14 active cases in isolation, with one in the hospital. This brings the county’s cumulative case count to 138, with 121 confirmed locally.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new recommendations on quarantines, suggesting travelers get tested up to three days before a flight, then tested between three and five days after travel while staying home for a week. With a negative test, quarantine can be shorted to a week. Without a test, the CDC recommends a 10-day quarantine.
Friday, the state Department of Health followed, shortening its quarantine guidelines for those who have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus, like close contacts. The DOH officially recommends 10 days “to improve compliance without significantly increasing the risk of transmission in the community,” a press release stated.
“We are following the CDC’s guidance for a shorter quarantine to address the mental- and emotional-health issues caused by isolation, and to improve compliance,” said Dr. Elizabeth Char, DOH director, in a press release. “This updated guidance balances the ongoing need to control the spread of the virus in our state while also continuing to safely reopen our state and reducing the personal burden of quarantines on Hawai‘i residents.”
The state’s guidance does come with stipulations to those living in congregate settings like correctional facilities and long-term-care facilities, rehabilitation facilities and military-recruit housing.
The DOH still recommends daily symptom self-monitoring to continue through two weeks, and to seek testing and self-isolate.
Kawakami said he and his team will continue to monitor the situation, but there is no word yet on shortening the two-week quarantine on Kaua‘i.
“There is no testing exemption, but we are aware that Governor Ige is considering new CDC quarantine guidance, and could reduce the length of the travel quarantine down to the recommended 10 days,” Kawakami said.
Quarantine rules as of Dec. 4
According to Kauai’s Rule 23, 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.
A statement from Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort &Spa clarified Friday that it will be temporarily suspending operations beginning Monday through at least the end of the year due to these quarantine rules.
The Grand Hyatt, however, was approved as a resort bubble, but is not going forward with these plans at this time.
“Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i applied for the resort bubble program as a means to assess all options and the application was approved on Dec. 2,” a statement said Friday. “The resort continues to closely monitor updates and recommendations from various health organizations and is exploring all possibilities for viable operations but at this time will remain closed beginning Dec. 7 through Dec. 31, 2020. As that date nears the resort will evaluate the situation with hopes to reopen in early 2021.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.