Updated: 11/14/2020, 3:10 p.m. Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami is calling for changes to the state's Safe Travels program that has allowed passengers to arrive in the island before receiving their pre-flight COVID-19 results, contributing to a dramatic increase in the county's cases.
"We are working with the state to make overall improvements to the system. One of the items we're requesting from the state is to require Safe Travel participants to receive their pre-travel test results prior to travel," the mayor said in his Facebook video update yesterday.
"This will address the issue of travelers who took a pre-travel test, but did not receive their positive test result until after arrival."
Kauai reported two new cases yesterday, with 17 active cases on the island. Two are in the hospital and all are in isolation, the mayor said.
The official Kauai case count is now 88, with one probable case and 8 positive cases diagnosed elsewhere. These are the positive tests taken on the U.S. mainland but with results not received until after arrival on the island.
The Kauai police and Hawaii National Guard are tracking about 2,000 individuals who are in travel-related quarantine.
Until the opening of quarantine-free travel with a pre-flight test on Oct. 15, Kauai had about 60 cases spanning the entire pandemic and had kept its case count low.
"It is clear that after many months with very little disease, COVID-19 is now rapidly increasing in our community," said Dr. Janet Berreman, Kauai District health officer.
She said since the travel restrictions were eased, "we have seen a dramatic rise in cases."
"Until this week, the cases were all travel-related. But now we're seeing community transmission, cases that cannot be linked to travel directly or indirectly."
She said community spread is the biggest risk from travel, whether from residents taking flights elsewhere and returning or visitors to the island bringing in the virus.
"Once introduced, it behaves as it has everywhere else in the world: it spreads rapidly through communities unless brought under control by location action."
She urged Kauai residents to gather safely, meaning smaller groups, stay outdoors, socially distance and wear masks. Those who are sick should stay home, she said, and those who travel should avoid close contact for two weeks when they return. Lastly, she said when out in public, wear masks properly, covering the bridge of the nose to under the chin.
Statewide, new COVID-19 cases reported today totaled 108, another day of triple-digit counts and again signaling that further easing of restrictions won't come soon, particularly on Oahu. There were no additional deaths; the statewide toll stood at 222.
With today's counts, the state Department of Health reported Hawaii cases reached 16,519 since the pandemic began.
Oahu had 90 new cases, Hawaii County 12, Maui 1, Kauai 3 (county cases often run ahead of state reports), and Lanai and Molokai 0. Two more cases were diagnosed out of state.
Oahu has now had 14,261 cases, Hawaii County 1,471, Maui 444, Lanai 106, Kauai 80, and Molokai 17. Out of state cases totaled 140.