Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami has mandated all transient vacation rentals and home-stays to shut down beginning Saturday after the administration received complaints of occupants flouting emergency orders designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Vacation rentals are not supervised in the same way as hotels, where it’s easier to distribute information about the 14-day quarantine period,” Kawakami said in Wednesday’s daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. “We have seen some alarming data points. Most recent data on incoming flights are showing a slight rise in visitor numbers. Further, some vacation rentals are still actively advertising, including promoting themselves as COVID-19 retreats for people from the mainland.”
“This is wrong. It is dangerous for our community, and it cannot continue,” he added.
Vacation rental closures under the amended county emergency order will be in effect from Saturday through May 3. In addition, all operators must cease advertisements during the proclamation.
“Any visitor currently staying in a vacation rental will be allowed to complete their stay, but they are not allowed to extend their current reservation,” Kawakami said. “Once these visitors vacate their vacation rental unit, vacation rentals must cease to operate.”
Violators face a misdemeanor charge that carries maximum penalties of a $5,000 fine and one year in jail.
Kauai County Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull said his office received complaints of visitors allegedly disregarding the 14-day quarantine period by falsely informing police and National Guard soldiers at security checkpoints that they were on their way to buy groceries when they had no intention of going to the store. “They’re going out to sight-see,” he said.
Kauai has roughly 3,500 to 4,000 legally operated vacation rentals.
Hull acknowledged “a vast majority” of operators have shut down and advertisements have significantly decreased online, but some operators are still open and reducing prices to engage nonessential travelers during the emergency order.
“The industry has been put on notice,” he said, adding those failing to comply need to immediately shut down and cease advertisements.
In addition to vacation rental closures, all golf courses on the Garden Isle must close. It has become apparent, Kawakami said, that they cannot ensure social distancing and group gatherings.
The golf courses include Kiahuna Golf Club in Koloa, Kukuiolono Golf Club in Kalaheo, Ocean Course at Hokuala Resort in Lihue, Poipu Bay Golf Course Resort in Poipu, Princeville Makai Golf Club Resort in Princeville, Puakea Golf Course in Lihue, The Club at Kukuiula in Koloa and Wailua Golf Course in Lihue
All employees at food service establishments, as well as pharmacies and dispensaries, also must wear cloth masks under the amended order.
Kauai had 19 confirmed cases as of Thursday. Of those, 12 patients have recovered or returned to the mainland. The remaining seven patients are residents, four of whom are in home isolation; two are in isolation at a facility; and one is in isolation at a hospital.
“All but one case has been confirmed to be travel-related, and the source of that infection continues to be investigated by the Department of Health,” Kawakami said.
Statewide there are 442 confirmed cases, which include seven new cases as of Thursday. A total of 251 patients have recovered since the outbreak. The number of deaths remained at six as of Wednesday.