LIHUE, Kauai — A majority of Kauai County Council candidates say tourists should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before they get to the island and most of those believe two tests should be required — one before arrival and one after they get here.
The two-test consensus is stricter than what Gov. David Ige and state officials have proposed for when the statewide 14-day quarantine is removed — perhaps as early as Sept. 1.
Eleven of the 21 candidates running in the Aug. 8 primary responded to a Civil Beat question about how best to reopen the county to tourism. Advocates for a two-test protocol have proposed a weeklong quarantine between a tourist’s arrival and the second test.
Five said they favored a policy under which tourists would be required to have one negative COVID-19 test result before they leave home, undergo a six-or seven-day quarantine when they get to Hawaii and then take a second test before they could move about freely in the islands.
Three said one test would be adequate and two others had different perspectives, including some kind of testing but with no number of tests specified and restricting tourists to their accommodations and nearby restaurants. Only one candidate advocated for immediate, unconditional reopening of the state to tourism.
The top 14 candidates in the primary advance to the November election, which will decide who serves on the seven-member council.
Among the 10 candidates who did not respond are three who have answered no questions posed by Civil Beat or the Kauai Chamber of Commerce. They are Donovan Cabebe, Richard Fukushima and Clint Yago, Sr. Sitting members of the council were asked a shorter series of questions than those not in office, but that query also asked about reopening Kauai to tourism. One of the incumbents, Felicia Cowden, did not respond.
Differing Ideas For Reopening
The proposal for requiring two COVID tests spaced around a quarantine first emerged about two weeks ago from an ad hoc committee of doctors and community leaders. Critics have said the plan is unrealistic, especially since a manufacturer of COVID testing chemical reagents stripped half of Hawaii’s supply earlier this month so it could be allocated to more severely infected states.
“I have been following the proposal for reopening by our local physicians’ group and I’m an advocate of their plan,” said Councilman Mason Chock. “This would ensure that the period prior to arrival will not compromise our incoming travel and inadvertently cause a potential increase of cases.”
“I personally would like to see a required test before flying and then a second test either upon arrival or after a few days,” said Councilmember Luke Evslin. “I don’t think eliminating the quarantine is worth risking the progress that we have made.”
Evslin’s position was not surprising. His father, Dr. Lee Evslin, is a member of the ad hoc committee.
Candidate Addison Bulosan, a chiropractor with offices on Kauai and Maui, said he reviewed the ad hoc committee’s proposal and supports the recommendation.
“I am in support of advocating for a system particular to Kauai to keep our families and communities safe,” Bulosan said.
Debralynn Desilva-Carveiro, an Eleele resident, said “I believe that testing is key. Upon arrival onto our island, everyone, including children, should be tested again and their isolation should be based on how long it takes to get the results back.”
Ige alluded to problems with the time required to obtain test results at a news conference in Honolulu on July 13. He said that tests administered in Hawaii usually return results in a day or two, but tests that must be sent to the mainland take far longer—as much as 10 days.
“I’ve been saying for a while that a mandatory COVID test for our visitors and returning residents should occur both before they board the plane and after they arrive at the airport in Hawaii,” said candidate Ed Justus, owner of Talk Story, a Hanapepe book store. Justus is a former member of the county Charter Review Commission.
“If the state won’t do it,” Justus said, “the emergency powers authorization allows the mayor to create such a rule for Kauai County.”
In contrast, candidate Jakki Nelson, a Kapaa resident, rejected any test and quarantine approach.
“We need to reopen,” she said. “Kids need to go to school and summer programs. They need to socialize and get outside. Most of our livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on tourism. Mortgages, rent, utilities, truck payments and grocery bills will not be ending, so we need to open up all of our Kauai businesses.”
Councilmember Kipukai Kualii stopped short of endorsing the test-quarantine-test protocol. But, he said, “first and foremost, we must not allow tourists to come and cause an outbreak and deaths. (That would) be an even more devastating blow to tourism.”
Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro also hedged his bets on requiring more testing.
“We need to be sure we have a system in place to safely receive tourists,” he said. “This means continuing our screening efforts at the airport, having the capability to identify tested and quarantined visitors and providing guidance on how to properly interact.”
Jade Waialeale Battad, a minister and wedding officiant running for office for the first time, said, “We need to protect our community and there is no problem with our county having different approaches than others.
“Testing is part of the solution, but testing is not everything. It’s also true that a massive program of testing all travelers could threaten the availability of test kits for known contacts of COVID-positive individuals on our small island.”
Candidate Mike Dandurand, of Lihue, said “Kauai has always been unique. We like to do things our way. Until we can test arriving passengers prior to arrival and be sure they are all negative, we need to quarantine all arrivals.”
Billy DeCosta, a teacher making his fifth attempt at election to the council, said “We need our tourists to remain in controlled areas around the hotel and be in walking distance to restaurants and beaches only in that designated area.”
Candidate Victoria Franks, also an Eleele resident, said “I believe we should reopen completely as soon as we safely can. Most visitors will not be willing to quarantine. Testing seems to be a very viable option.”
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