Mayors question safety of opening tourism on Aug. 1

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — There’s more push against opening tourism on August 1 as some mayors say it’s not safe. The mayors are meeting with the governor again Thursday after a marathon meeting Wednesday on the issue.

This comes as the lieutenant governor criticizes the health department, saying it’s not doing enough to prepare the state for a surge of COVID cases.

The spike in cases both here and on the mainland has mayors reconsidering whether a negative test three days before departure for visitors is enough to keep Hawaii safe. To make matters worse, there’s been a drastic reduction in the capacity to test for COVID-19.

It all adds up to a lot of uncertainty on whether to open tourism on August. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he would consider keeping that commitment if we only allowed travelers who test negative, with no option for others to quarantine.

“So August 1 maybe everyone who’s negative is allowed in, no one else is allowed in. That would be something I’m willing to look at,” said Caldwell.

Kauai’s mayor wants to look at having a modified quarantine, where visitors are confined to a designated resort area.

“They can have a run of the property and enjoy the amenities, and yet keep our own people safe as we deal with this pandemic, both locally and across the state,” said Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami.

Wednesday’s meeting apparently did not sit well with Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who said the health department is not doing enough to ramp up testing and contact tracing for tourism to open.

“I’m afraid they’re not continuing to be up to that task. They are throwing their arms up about tracing. And that’s a great worry. All we end up hearing is excuses. Why it’s difficult now to get this or that in place. That should be their single focus, COVID. So anything else is an excuse and it’s unfortunate,” said Green.

The health department says it has an emergency supply of more than 25-thousand test kits but, “I don’t think it’s necessarily the job of the state laboratory to handle all the testing that’s associated with tourism,” said Dr. Edward Desmond, DOH Laboratories Division Administrator.

A spokeswoman for the health department also sent a statement saying, “We respectfully disagree with the Lt. Governor and will continue discussions directly with him.”

Gov. David Ige released a statement saying, “We are getting input from community leaders as we carefully consider the health and safety of our residents and the financial health of our communities because we know they are interconnected.”

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