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2 Kauai restaurants ban tourists from dining rooms

Two restaurants on the north shore of Kauai have posted social media notices that they won’t be serving visitors, who arrive through the state’s pre-arrivals testing program, in their dining rooms.

Saenz Ohana Breakfast in Princeville posted Friday that it would only allow visitors to order online and pick up and that only residents with local state IDs would be allowed to order, sit and eat.

“Visitors we are sorry for the inconvenience but we, as a island, are not ready for opening now,” the post said. “(Our) plan is to keep our area safe of travelers so the locals can have somewhere to feel safe eating not crowded by visitors that may or may not be COVID positive.”

A patron of Lighthouse Bistro on Saturday also posted a hand-written sign at the entrance of the establishment to social media, “Attention Bistro Patrons. Recent unquarantined travelers do not enter. You are welcome back post 14-day quarantine.”

Neither restaurant immediately responded Sunday to a call from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. However, community reaction to their posts was divided, highlighting the difficulty that state and county officials face in striking a balance between reopening Hawaii’s tourist-dependent economy and public-safety needs.

Angela Keen, co-founder of Hawaii Quarantine Kapu Breakers, said she’s heard from residents statewide that some visitors aren’t wearing masks, social-­distancing or avoiding gatherings.

“In some cases there have been conflicts, with reports of visitors engaging in profanity and lewd gestures,” Keen said. “The state needs to make passengers that don’t have a test exemption quarantine at a monitored quarantine facility. Visitors also need to arrive educated about what public-safety requirements are expected of them in Hawaii.”

Even with enhanced screening of passengers, some in Hawaii fear that the return of U.S. tourism could lead to a surge of COVID-19 cases. The U.S. coronavirus death toll was over 219,000 Sunday.

Hawaii recorded one new coronavirus-related death on Oahu and 83 new infections statewide, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic to 187 fatalities and 14,031 cases, health officials said Sunday.

Sunday’s new infection cases in Hawaii include 68 on Oahu, 14 on Hawaii island and one on Kauai. As a result of updated information, one previous Honolulu infection case was removed from the state’s tally.

State health officials said they counted 3,735 tests Sunday for a 2.2% statewide positivity rate, which is well below the 5% positivity rate threshold that’s recommended before relaxing restrictions on activities.

Kauai residents are especially sensitive to the reopening of tourism, given that the county has had only 61 cases since the start of the pandemic. With only nine intensive care unit beds, Kauai also struggles from very limited health care resources.

In comparison, there have been 12,465 infections on Oahu, 1,052 in Hawaii County and 411 in Maui County. There also have been 42 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

The Health Department’s official state death toll Sunday includes 150 on Oahu, 18 each on Hawaii island and Maui, and one Kauai resident who died on the mainland. Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases, 1,005 have required hospitalization, including 890 on Oahu, 57 on Maui, 55 on Hawaii island and only one on Kauai.

Gov. David Ige has approved an emergency rule from Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami that allows the county to opt out of the state’s pre-travel testing program, if there is a one-week average of eight or more new daily COVID-19 cases.

North shore Kauai resident Megan Wong characterized the restaurants as “taking a stand for the safety of all.”

Wong said north shore Kauai locals have grown increasingly frustrated since Thursday when the state began allowing travelers to take a pre-­arrivals COVID-19 test to exempt out of a 14-day quarantine.

“Tourists are racing over the bridges when a car is already on the bridge, and they are driving fast on private roads in Wainiha,” she said. “There are too many people in grocery stores together. Tourists are looking for boat rides, luaus and other activities. There are too many, that’s obvious to us, being in a pandemic.”

Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hanne-mann said he’ll be calling Kawakami to see whether something can be done to ensure visitors to Kauai don’t face discrimination from local businesses.

“They can refuse service if there’s cause like someone isn’t wearing a mask or social-distancing,” Hannemann said. “There should be the same rules for visitors as for residents.”

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