Kauai can’t afford a COVID outbreak, but they can’t afford a shutdown for much longer, either

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Multiple Kauai businesses said they are either temporarily closed or are considering shutting their doors until Kauai opts back in to the state’s Safe Travels program.

Last month, Gov. David Ige approved a request by Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami to temporarily opt out of the state’s pre-travel testing program. The island has now required a mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers over the past two weeks.

Kawakami said with rising numbers on the mainland and travel-related COVID-19 cases, Kauai couldn’t afford an outbreak.

But business owners say they cannot afford to live with the restrictions much longer.

“I’m actually closing tomorrow. Tomorrow’s our last day,” said coffee truck owner Shantel Zimmerman. She says her business, Sunrise Coffee Kauai, isn’t profitable anymore.

She will be closing temporarily until the moratorium is lifted.

“There are days that we just stopped working because we weren’t making any money,” Zimmerman said.

Normally during the holidays, the Grant Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa would have 90 percent of its 605 rooms filled.

“We had to make the difficult decision to close the resort down effective Dec. 7,” said Katy Brtizmann, the director of sales and marketing for the resort. “Right now, we were hoping to reevaluate on a weekly basis. But at this point, we’ve made the decision to close through Jan. 31.”

Mayor Kawakami’s chief of staff, Sarah Blane, said there are ongoing discussions with state leadership but there are no anticipated changes to the Safe Travels program at this time.

“Now we’re really considering shutting down again, until (the) 10 day quarantine gets lifted,” said restaurant owner Brooke Sugahara. She and her husband run The Dolphin Poipu and have had to flip-flip from closed to open.

There’s not enough locals to support all of the businesses, not to mention the locals are running out of unemployment,” Sugahara said. “We deal with tourists. When you take that away, you take away everybody’s income.”

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