VOICES: House Speaker Scott Saiki’s travel-policy bill unsafe for Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i

Under Mayor Kawakami’s independent-travel policies, Kaua‘i has the lowest COVID incidence in Hawai‘i.

Nonetheless, Hawai‘i’s Speaker of the House, Scott Saiki, claiming that Kaua‘i’s different travel rules confuse travelers to Hawai‘i, has proposed House Bill 1286, to force all counties to conform to the state’s one-test, “Safe” Travels plan.

The state’s one-test plan has shown itself to be clearly UNSAFE. After its start on Kaua‘i on Oct. 15, 2020, careful data tracking showed a DOUBLING of COVID cases in one month.

In the first seven months of the pandemic, Kaua‘i had 60 infections. After one month of the state’s unsafe travel plan, Kaua‘i’s total caseload spiked to 120. Of those post-reopening cases, 80% were incoming travelers. The state’s unsafe plan was unquestionably the cause.

Kaua‘i wisely opted out. Maui didn’t — and went from 1% of the state’s total cases to 18% today.

The lieutenant governor’s own Safe Travels Surveillance Study was quietly terminated after 18 positives out of 2,507 post arrival PCR tests from O‘ahu, Maui and Kaua‘i showed that the predeparture test missed at least seven of 1,000 travelers — seven times the prediction of the state’s travel plan.

The state’s travel plan was never based in science. Infected people don’t usually test positive until day four or five after exposure, when the viral shedding becomes detectable. One pretravel negative test does not mean a traveler is safe. A significant number of travelers test positive AFTER arrival, seeding spread in Hawai‘i.

For U.S. citizens returning to America (a category of travelers akin to returning residents or visitors to Hawai‘i), the Centers for Disease Control states: “Testing before and after travel is a critical layer to slow the introduction and spread of COVID-19.” It recommends a pre-departure test, a second test between three and five days after arrival, and post-arrival quarantine for seven days.

There appears to be a concerted effort to blame local residents for the COVID spread. Those minimizing the role of travel are denying a basic pandemic fact: TRAVEL CAUSES SPREAD.

Coronavirus variants that could increase the danger only come through travelers. Countries successfully handling the coronavirus, like Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia, have demonstrated that it’s critical to keep infections out. It’s impossible to contain the virus when there is a continuous incoming stream; the state’s travel plan is likely a significant cause of the triple-digit, seven-day, new-cases average that plagued Hawai‘i throughout January.

The tragedy is that the one-test plan is not only failing to keep Hawai‘i safe, it is also failing to save the economy. From President Biden to economists like Hawai‘i’s Paul Brewbaker, there is agreement that “You don’t solve the economic problem until the epidemiological problem is solved.” The only way to revive the economy is to disable the virus.

The solution has always been a truly safe way to bring travelers in. Unfortunately, the lieutenant governor and certain travel, medical and business leaders have chosen to ignore science and push a travel plan that puts the short-term economic interests of tourism over the health of the people, yet continues to perpetuate the economic problem — the coronavirus.

A recent poll showed 67% of Hawai‘i’s residents agreeing that “the island is being run for tourists at the expense of local people.”

Stopping Mayor Kawakami from effectively protecting his constituents is unfathomable. If the speaker wants uniformity AND a solid plan to weather this pandemic, he would do better to follow Kaua‘i’s lead and endorse a science-based plan by which to welcome visitors to Hawai‘i safely.

A hearing on Bill 1286 has been scheduled before the House Committees on Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness and on Labor and Tourism for Tuesday, Feb. 9, at 8 a.m. Written testimony must be submitted online 24 hours prior to the hearing — by 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 8. Here is the link to the hearing notice which contains links for testifying online or submitting written testimony: capitol.hawaii.gov/session2021/hearingnotices/HEARING_PDP-LAT_02-09-21_.HTM, or google Hawai‘i State House of Representatives and type HB1286 at top left for Bill Status.

Whatever your opinion may be, let your voice be heard.

•••

JoAnn Yukimura is a former Kaua‘i County mayor and councilmember. She helped to start The Kaua‘i Bus and Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, and was instrumental in stopping high-rises on Kaua‘i. Robert Weiner, M.D., is a retired, board-certified general surgeon who worked at Wilcox Medical Center and Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital. He and his wife Linda Weiner started and operated the Kalaheo Clinic for 28 years. He also worked for Kaua‘i Hospice, where he continues to volunteer. Chad K. Taniguchiis a Kaua‘i native and former head of the County Housing Agency who has served as an advocate for safe streets and communities.

21 Comments
  1. In favor February 7, 2021 6:57 am Reply

    Sorry Joann. The community has spoken. We didn’t want you as our mayor and here’s another reason why I’m glad that didn’t happen. However I’m not so sure you’d be as bad as karmakami. You folks have no money left, depending on federal funds to hopefully string us a long a little longer. No. We are done l, at risk and essential workers are being vaccinated. We have 2 cases in over a week. Our kids are still out of school. You guys are a joke if you want to continue this bs lockdown making your own rules. Yea you let us keep our businesses open just to fall further into debt with no customers for tours/restaurants/ hotels. You and your the elected officials have failed the working class community of kauai. Shame on you and kookakami.


    1. Kathryn Jones February 8, 2021 8:03 pm Reply

      Amen!


    2. judi February 8, 2021 9:15 pm Reply

      I am sad to read this unkind comment and we need more aloha in our community and starts here Let us appreciate and respect our leaders and former leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of all Kauai.


      1. No February 9, 2021 3:31 pm Reply

        Sometimes the truth hurts. You know what also hurts. Not being able to afford to take care of your family when you are a hardworking healthy individual and our leadership under full paid salary are making decisions that’s best for them. And makes them look good. Kawakami and anyone else who supports his dictatorship of our island are no longer credible. As I write this we still have 2 or less active cases on island. In the whole state.. cases, hospitalizations are all down. Get a grip and let us live free. I’d rather die trying the then die laying in my house scared of the boogeyman corvido


  2. Rev Dr Malama February 7, 2021 10:49 am Reply

    “Follow the money ” is not just a catchy saying but the reason for the Hawai’i State travel requirements…..
    We just don’t have the federal nor local funding for scientifically recommended testing!!!
    Some of us have been saying that testing is everything since at least a year ago when we became aware that the world was being hit by a pandemic.
    The elite of society has managed to elbow their way into the less contagious corners of the world through private planes, boats and car travel. They are working remotely and can hire health professionals and couriers to cater to their every wish but this dynamic is changing the Islands forever to displace local people due to the so called safe travel system and shutdown of our Hawai’ian way of life and the pursuit of happiness.
    To the contributing authors of this article I beseech you to step outside your own comfort zone that was created by the hardest working people in Hawai’i who trusted you and paid you to do the right thing…..
    We must have representation for all the taxation we are charged 24/7 and that is what has been lacking for to many years….
    No amount of talking at the legislative table is going to reverse this issue until we get adequate and targeted funding for vaccines and testing!
    I predict that we will not.
    Sadly, Paradise lost.


  3. nobody February 7, 2021 12:13 pm Reply

    Yes, stop tourism. Kauai should be for the ones who can afford this paradise. It’s not for the poor or working class.


  4. Erzincanli February 7, 2021 1:27 pm Reply

    This opinion piece is another example of the class warfare going on in Kauai between haves and have nots Well to do and elderly with secure incomes ( such as the authors of this article) are doing everything they can to block the opening of the island with the rest of the state because of fear for themselves. They do not give a damn to suffering small business owners and tourist industry employees who desperately need money to support their families, pay their employees, pay their rent and put food on the table. They should take the protection of their health as their own responsibility and act accordingly rather than trying to impose their way on to the others through fear mongering. Kauai has had only one death, an 85 year old with underlying conditions which may not have been due to covid even. On the other hand the island has had at least 10+ suicides of young men some of whom were pushed over the cliff by their inability to support themselves. May be that is the goal of the well to do, getting rid of the working class on the island under the pretense of Covid.


  5. judi February 7, 2021 3:17 pm Reply

    Mahalo Jo Ann Dr Weiner and Chad for your excellent explanation of the travel rules to the state of Hawaii. Mahalo to Mayor Kawakami for taking the lead and keeping Kauai safe. As a travel advisor with head office in McLean Va I can report that our team of professional travel advisors associated with Virtuoso ( largest travel organization ) are very clear on travel to Hawaii. Clients understand and not confused. This would absolutely no reason to change our island visitor policy based on ‘confused travelers’ That is ridiculous logic and no logic at all. The facts are clear … rather than changing rules of Kauai visitors the legislature should consider adopting the program which was brilliantly set forth by our mayor.


  6. William Grantham February 7, 2021 3:41 pm Reply

    Kauai is different than the other islands in the State. We have a much lower population than the other islands and have a much lower COVID rate than any of the other islands. Our dual testing policy works here and should not be changed, especially by fiat from the major (population) island in the state. Please leave us be and allow us to keep our testing the way it is. Mahalo, William Grantham


  7. Ron Rodarte February 7, 2021 8:33 pm Reply

    HB 1286 is a commodification of human life for a subsidization of the tourist dollar industry. Republican Governor Dan Patrick exhibited the same faith in economic dollar commodification when he claimed he would rather die, and others should consider, than see an economic devaluation that would prevent his children from experiencing the economy Governor Patrick experienced. That is a commodification of life resulting in a subsidy towards dollar profit. That is a moral failure of the most disastrous consequences. Kauai County cannot stand by without comment as the State Legislature cedes Kauai lives to tourist dollar economics.


  8. John Patt February 8, 2021 8:11 am Reply

    Our small vacation rental business has suffered seriously under COVID. It is our major source of income.
    But we survived Iniki, we survived 911, we survived the housing crash and we will survive COVID – hopefully – unless the HI state legislature takes away one of our major defenses against this insidious and diabolical killer.
    We can recover hardships and adversity. We can’t recover from death.


  9. John Patt February 8, 2021 8:22 am Reply

    With vaccinations in progress, and new variants of COVID arriving, it is the height of irresponsibility and idiocy to force us into the failed single test system now.


    1. K February 8, 2021 4:06 pm Reply

      Stay inside. And wear 2 masks. And get vaccinated. If you’re worried about it decide what’s best for yourself. Not others. If you own an investment home kauai you do not speak for the majority of its residents.


  10. Kauai Guy February 8, 2021 3:37 pm Reply

    Do you read your own opinions before you submit them. Many are absurd, totally lacking in empathy for those who have lost their jobs, and using COVID paranoia to scare people.
    Let keep this in perspective. There has been one death from COVID on Kauai, so the fear is unfounded in fact. If we shut down the economy, took away local jobs, and created economic disaster after someone died, we should have done it in the first month of the pandemic several times over. How about the deaths from suicide, drug overdose, or mental despair from these policies leaving people without work, dignity. Clearly some of the writers here have no empathy for those who have suffered from the effects of this shutdown. To talk about being able to rebuild the economy but not being able to replace life is true, but it is really not being used when considering the real facts. People have been dying on Kauai every month from the effects caused by this unwarranted lockdown.Those of you who are on a fixed income, pension, or a large bank account, probably like not have those nuisance tourists around. For you, this is just an inconvenience, so you best admit it.
    No one can say it better than the Mayor, when he stated that Kauai should focus on luxury travel, and not budget travelers. Really? What a sense of cultured arrogance.


  11. Gandy Dancer February 8, 2021 4:23 pm Reply

    The current rules are non sensical. Require everyone to get a test before traveling here. If you want to add the extra layer of protection then require another test after a 3 day quarantine. Should really adopt the same as the other islands. The only reason it got off to a bad start last time is because the intellectually challenged (otherwise know as dumb) people in charge didn’t require a mandatory negative test before getting on a plane to come here. DUH… and the bad part is they still dont require a negative test of everyone before boarding a plane and coming here. It doesn’t really require that much brain power to think it through.
    It’s a classic case of cranial rectitus.


    1. KK February 9, 2021 12:08 pm Reply

      Listen to Gandy and get the airlines to enforce the negative COVID test results before getting on the plane.


  12. USAF Brat February 9, 2021 6:19 am Reply

    You JY, KMG, as well as, “we the people” voters, shoulda been “paying attention” when in 2018, I was a COK candidate in the mayoral hui o corrupted nonsense that has retroactively been in place to screw blue and tattoo all keiki, kane and wahine, 12.8 Decades earlier to now! I have lived it up close and personal in the 40+ year medical career, out from KCC A.D. R.N. Nursing program 1973, And 1979, implemented an Emergency Call Center, “Central Answering Service” shortly after JY returned from law school and advanced her agenda via the Niumalu tenants association/Kauai Canoe Club, the Nukolii fiasco onward, thru hurricanes Iwa-Iniki! Each and every one of the blatant disregardees, add KPD Blue, dismissed the oaths you all took, and then turned into the narcisssists you have become! No one is perfect, but those thousands of community igarots have instigated fake so well, that it is now time to “fess up” your indescretions, trade places with Brun, who like others incarcerated continue to be your Judiciopoliticomilitary Paddy whack ur doodle middle knee! GAME OVER. Z, CCP, and Buydung are the new entrants. Should you decide to keep projecting evil intentions, there are direct flights every day, destination called GITMO and what ive heard, they offer a Free last supper, and group or individual rabbit holes after being tribunaled.


  13. james February 9, 2021 6:27 am Reply

    The facts speak for themselves. Look at Maui then compare to Kauai. We have far fewer cases and hospitalizations. Keep doing what we are doing. We don’t need the State to pull a power play and force us into the safe travels program. No one asked for this pandemic. How we deal with it is our only option. Health must be valued more than profit for the benefit of a majority of residents. If anyone has a better system that can open up tourism and still keep our numbers as low as they are now, then let’s hear it.


  14. Stephen February 9, 2021 10:26 am Reply

    Has the program not worked on the other islands? Have the hospitals or the healthcare systems on the other islands been overwhelmed? No!! The infection rates are low throughout the state. The hospitals have excess capacity. Infection rates are falling worldwide. What are we doing here?? We need to reopen with appropriate measures in place to protect those at risk, but a pre-travel testing program works!! It won’t prevent every infection, nor every death. But, it will keep rates low and prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, which has always been the goal with this disease. Reason people!!!


  15. unuts February 11, 2021 6:09 pm Reply

    I don’t think I could catch COVID if I tried hard on Kauai! The longer you stay in this “fishbowl” the more myopic your view becomes. Why is it so hard to see that Bubblehead and his consort JB are creating much more of a socio-economic crisis on Kauai than any potential health threat?


  16. Joyce Lopez-Powell February 22, 2021 1:57 pm Reply

    What effect will being fully immmunized via vaccinations have on mainland travel to Hawaii and/or Kauai? We will have all 3 family members immunized for 6 weeks before our travel to Oahu and Kauai in July.


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