Gov. David Ige has approved a request by the mayor of Kauai to temporarily opt out of the state’s pre-travel testing program, a decision that will force all travelers to the Garden Isle ― including those on neighbor island flights ― to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
The decision goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
Previously, as was the case across the rest of the state, passengers who submitted proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours of arrival could bypass the two-week quarantine.
Friday’s decision eliminates that provision for all passengers arriving on Kauai.
“The unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases on the mainland and the rise in community spread on Kauai are of significant concern for the Garden Isle,” said Ige. “We must protect Kauai residents and visitors and ensure that Kauai’s hospitals do not become overwhelmed.”
Businesses say the moratorium will impact them as they were seeing visitors return for the holidays.
“This is devastating, and I don’t even understand what we’re protecting ourselves from,” said Richard Kemper, general manager at the locally owned Kauai Inn. “I mean, I understand COVID, I’m not stupid. But the cure is getting far worse than the disease at this point.”
Kemper said the hotel has already laid off 23 of its 25 employees.
Cody Kimura of Blue Ocean Adventures said he had just made enough revenue to buy and finish a new boat for his business.
“We were finally getting back to normal, or to what’s the closest thing that we can call normal, and then that’s just gone,” Kimura said.
Kimura was looking forward to seeing Christmas holiday travelers when he got the news alert that the county was pulling out of the pre-travel testing program.
“Literally, within 10 minutes, our business line just started ringing and ringing and ringing, people starting to cancel immediately,” he said.
The island currently has 18 active cases, according to data released Friday by the Department of Health, as well as the fewest number of ICU beds in the state.
“Kauai is unable to adequately protect itself by utilizing the Safe Travels program at this time,” said Mayor Derek Kawakami. “Our travel related cases are now leading to community spread across our island.
“I will gladly repeal the moratorium once we have the virus under control again,” Kawakami added.
Kimura said he supported the mayor’s earlier proposal to have arriving visitors undergo a three-day quarantine on Kauai and take a second test after arriving, but that proposal was rejected by the governor.
The state’s pre-travel testing program currently remains in place for the rest of the state.
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