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Gov. David Ige approves Kauai’s request to rejoin state’s Safe Travels program for inter-island travelers

                                Kauai Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami
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Kauai Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami

Gov. David Ige has approved a request by Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami to rejoin the state’s Safe Travels program, allowing inter-island travelers that test negative for COVID-19 to bypass the island’s mandatory 10-day quarantine as of Jan. 5.

The mayor’s amendment to Kauai’s emergency rules lifts the restriction for inter-island travelers that test negative for the coronavirus less than 72 hours before flying to the Garden Isle. The new rule requires travelers to be physically in the state for more than three days before heading to Kauai, meaning that out-of-state travelers would not immediately be eligible to participate.

The order takes effect the same day a post-travel testing program authorizing a shorter quarantine for those who choose to stay in so-called “resort bubbles” begins on Kauai.

“Travelers who participate in this program will be able to enjoy resort amenities and visit the pool for the first three days of their vacations, until they are eligible to take their post-travel test,” Kawakami said in a news release. “Once the post-travel test shows they are COVID-free, they can enjoy all that Kauai has to offer.”

Kawakami acknowledged that the resort bubble program is “tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents.”

“Our residents continue to be our highest priority,” he said. “Now that our community has been able to enjoy the holiday season without a major surge in cases, we feel we are in a good position to loosen inter-island travel restrictions and offer more convenient opportunities to travel between islands.”

Hawaii health officials reported 108 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 21,209 cases. The Department of Health reported no new deaths for the seven straight day, leaving the statewide death toll at 285. However, Hawaii County officials said Sunday that one coronavirus-related death on the Big Island was reported over the past week.

The proposed order does not affect Kauai’s moratorium on the Safe Travels program for trans-Pacific travelers.

“The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the mainland continues to increase, with the number of cases this month nearly double the rate in November,” said Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman. “Unfortunately, it is just not safe at this time to allow trans-Pacific travel to Kauai without additional safeguards.”

Kauai opted out of the Safe Travels program for all travelers on Dec. 2.

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