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Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami requests to opt out of state’s pre-arrivals testing program, citing rising COVID cases

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami is requesting to opt-out of Hawaii’s pre-arrivals testing program after dozens of new COVID-19 cases reached the island.

Kawakami today sent Gov. David Ige a request to approve Emergency Rule No. 23, which would temporarily pause Kauai’s participation in the state’s Safe Travels pre-travel testing program.

If Ige approves the rule, as of Dec.1, all incoming Kauai travelers — trans-Pacific and interisland— would be required to quarantine for the full 14 days regardless of testing.

“We are facing alarming COVID-19 numbers on our island as well as across the nation,” Kawakami said in a statement. “This is not just a tourist problem. Nearly half of our recent travel cases are Kauai residents who returned home. We know that a single, pre-travel test has not stopped the virus from reaching our island and we are saddened to report our first on-island death. We must take action to prevent the further spread of disease here.”

Last week, against the backdrop of already surging cases in the U.S. and on Kauai, Kawakami asked Ige to consider two new county emergency rules that would tighten travel entry requirements for Kauai.

Kawakami had hoped to avoid reverting back to quarantine when he asked Ige to approve Emergency Rule No. 21, which would require interisland and trans-Pacific participants in the Safe Travels pre-arrival testing program to quarantine for 72 hours and then take a post-arrival test. They would stay in quarantine until obtaining a negative test result.

Ige, who did not approve a similar request from Kawakami in September, is unlikely to approve Kawakami’s latest testing-related rule change.

Ige also isn’t likely to approve Kawakami’s Emergency Rule No. 22, which would require all travelers to have their negative test results uploaded to the Safe Travels program prior to flying to Kauai. Should test results not be available upon arrival, a 14-day quarantine would be required.

“Since the launch of the single pre-travel testing program on October 15, we have confirmed 58 new cases and our first on-island death,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, Kauai District Health Officer. “Forty-eight of those cases were travelers—27 visitors and 21 residents.”

Kawakami added that a temporary opt-out of the Safe Travels program would allow the island to remain in that county’s Tier 4 – the least restrictive tier – for as long as possible.

“Opting out of the Safe Travels program would be independent of our tier system, which means we could stay in Tier 4 for a longer period of time,” said Mayor Kawakami. “It makes no logical sense for us to move tiers while still allowing more travelers. We shouldn’t penalize our local people by restricting activities, such as youth sports, when that’s not the current source of infection.”

RELATED STORY: Hawaii records 61 new coronavirus infections as statewide tally climbs to 17,393

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