2020: A year of COVID-19 on Kaua‘i

  • Cynthia Chiang / Contributed photo

    The Garden Island Newspaper’s Dennis Fujimoto receives his first Moderna vaccine shot from Queen’s Medical specialist Dr. Randy Blake on Thursday, Dec. 31. Those with Kaua‘i District Health Office assisted the Happy Camper filling out forms and clearances to help the county reach herd immunity.

A lot has happened in 2020, here’s a brief Kaua‘i pandemic summary.

Early on, the County of Kaua‘i, including county, state and federal agencies began coordinated efforts to raise awareness related to COVID-19. By March 4, Mayor Derek Kawakami signed an emergency proclamation for the virus.

On March 12, Kawakami requested $2 million in emergency funds from the Kaua‘i County Council, the same day the World Health Organization declared a pandemic and the state’s Department of Health said the number of people self-monitoring in Hawai‘i crept up to 41.

Travel, booking, flights and revenues plummeted after a record January and February.

Less than a week later, on March 17, the state closed churches, clubs, theaters and bars statewide limiting restaurants to drive-through, take-out, pick-up or delivery, and limited social gatherings to 10 people following Centers for Disease Control guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

By March 25, the county went into a stay-at-home order. Residents were asked to hunker down and restrict as much movement as possible through April, with the addition of local rules like a curfew and closing county beaches.

On March 26, the Kaua‘i Police Department conducted its first checkpoint to ensure drivers were only traveling for essential business. KPD would later be assisted by the Hawai‘i National Guard in checkpoint screenings.

But some felt these rules were too restrictive. On April 19, a group began protesting restrictions weekly, including small business owner Sarah Schroeder, who said she was unable to do her job as she travels and sells beauty products to online customers and physical markets.

In early May, the county began loosening some restrictions, with Kawakami canceling the overnight curfew and Gov. David Ige announcing a list of businesses that can reopen including shopping malls and retail stores, car washes and pet groomers, and health-care and social assistance agencies, including elective surgery and non-emergency services. All this was going on while the county was workshopping various Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Teams.

Interisland travel came back mid-June, and bars and short-term vacation rents opened to those not subject to the state’s 14-day quarantine with the approval of a twelfth emergency rule. The county also opened up its Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding assistance program, which eventually went to fund over 40 community-led projects.

July 5, the county had a cumulative total of 40 cases to date, but two new positive cases had no connection, being deemed the first of community transmission on the county.

But on August 11, the interisland quarantine came back statewide due to a surge of cases. Outdoor gathers were limited to 25 in the county, where it remains today.

The state teetered in limbo for several weeks as a Safe Travels program that would allow travelers to by-pass a then two-week quarantine hovered, but kept being pushed back. The state approved a resort bubble option to monitor guests, but denied its proposed post-arrival test plan. The county then instituted a tier system, and as of today remains on its lease restrictive Tier 4.

But, finally, if only for a short while, Oct. 15, the state officially launched its Safe Travels program. But on Kaua‘i, infections of COVID-19 began to spike, both travel- and community-related.

In the month of October, the county reported five cases. In November, it reported 62.

In November, the county partnered with the DOH to bring surge testing opportunities each Sunday.

As an attempt to mitigate the virus and avoid a full lock-down, the county requested to opt-out of the Safe Travels program starting Dec. 2. In the month of December, the county reported 38 infections, the more than double deemed community-transmitted.

In December, the state conformed with CDC recommendations to reduce the quarantine from 14 to 10 days.

In the final week of the year, the county has been granted permission to have a resort bubble quarantine program independent of Safe Travels which allows travelers with a negative pre-test to quarantine for three days and then seek a post-arrival test. Upon a negative result, they’ll be released. That’s effective starting January 5. Also happening on Tuesday, the county will re-enter the Safe Travels program for inter-island movement with a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival.

On Dec. 31, The Garden Island’s very own Dennis Fujimoto received his first Moderna vaccine shot. He’s scheduled to get his second on Jan. 27.

  1. Tanks January 1, 2021 12:17 am Reply

    Tanks for the the reminder at how easy it was and how many bad decisions were made by a couple people that destroyed the lives of so many.

  2. LJ Molitor January 1, 2021 7:40 am Reply

    Happy New Year!
    It is frustrating to have governors and mayors continue to control the movements of law abiding adults, all in the name of safety/health and all while they brake their own constantly changing guidelines!
    I will be arriving on Kauai island in 27 days and I know these guidelines will change again and again. Very frustrating.
    I will be staying with relatives in a separate detached unit from the main home. Will I still need to pay to stay in a 3 day holding place? It seems unnecessary if police are able to check on me, and I’m separate from everyone! Whom would I contact because I will not be staying at a rental unit?
    I love Kauai and will fallow all these hoops and loops we are required to do……

  3. mina January 1, 2021 7:55 am Reply

    Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  4. John January 1, 2021 11:49 am Reply

    You forgot to mention the part where Imbecilic Ige and Corrupt Kawakami willingly exposed Kauai to thousands of infected tourists, turning our island overnight from 0 community-spread cases to 150 cases.

  5. pete January 2, 2021 5:56 am Reply

    You forgot to mention the part where some people (mostly small business owners) lost everything they had spent years building, while others, like Kawakami and his cabal of influencers, were able to comfortably cash their pay checks every month for the entire time of the pandemic.

  6. Amelia January 2, 2021 9:57 am Reply

    I plan on arriving in Kauai on February 25th 2021. Will I and my Family need to be Quartined at any time? Will we be able to attend a Luau while we are there?

    Thank You

  7. randy kansas January 2, 2021 11:29 am Reply

    with so few cases on this island, it literally would be cheaper to fly those infected, using private jets, to the hospital of their choice, and return them in private jets after they are healed, than destroying the entire island economy;

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