HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - All travelers to Kauai — including those on neighbor island flights — now need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, regardless of COVID-19 test results.
Gov. David Ige last week approved a request by the mayor of Kauai to temporarily opt out of the state’s pre-travel testing program.
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 14-day 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 hit hard just as visitors were planning holiday travel.
“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. 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 Kauai 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. That proposal was rejected by the governor.
Businesses said the timing on rolling back the rules couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“Right when you think that things are going okay, you get the carpet ripped out from under us,” Kimura said. “Not only I have a family, we have employees that have families. And you try to live through a holiday off of unemployment.
The state’s pre-travel testing program currently remains in place for the rest of the state.