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County working on incentivizing second test

LIHU‘E — The county is working with private sector partners on a voluntary second-test campaign after Gov. David Ige denied its formal request for the program.

The “Take 3, then test, that’s our request” program asks incoming travelers to Kaua‘i to first take a pre-test within three days of before flying in and then take a voluntary test three days after arrival.

Mayor Derek Kawakami, in his Daily COVID-19 Update, said the county is working with the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and private-industry partners to create an incentive program and messaging campaign.

The county already has a reserve of 15,000 rapid, same-day COVID-19 tests purchased using $1 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds, which, a county spokesperson said would be used for the post-arrival program.

“Our goal would be to offer free testing for returning residents who recently traveled out of state,” the county said.

On Thursday, the county proposed a four-tiered system outlining when businesses and activities can be operational based on coronavirus case counts, including a point at which Kaua‘i would opt out of the state’s pre-travel test program that kicks up Thursday, Oct. 15 for trans-Pacific travelers.

The lax Tier 4 is defined by less than two daily active cases and allows nearly all businesses and activities with minimal restrictions. Tier 3 includes tighter gathering restrictions when the county hits a one-week average of two to four cases. At Tier 2, or a week-long average of five to eight cases, the county opts out of the state’s pre-travel testing program. Tier 1 will add additional restrictions.

“We developed thresholds based on the information we have at our disposal now,” Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said Friday. “That includes our experience over the last six months in Hawai‘i, how other communities have responded and their results, our island’s small population, and on our knowledge of our public health and health care resources here on Kaua‘i. We do have limited public health and hospital capacity, and we must do everything we can to ensure we do not exceed that capacity.”

Berreman explained that if there are eight new cases in a single month, using state hospitalization data, that would result in 24 hospitalizations that month, which is “manageable” on Kaua‘i.

“Our best information from our health care partners is that this would meet but not exceed our hospital, intensive care, and ventilator capacity,” Berreman said. “So we feel comfortable that this level keeps us within our local healthcare capacity. More than this would push us into dangerous territory. Less would be more manageable.”

Berreman went on to say that the proposal uses “not precise calculations, but educated decisions.”

“This gives us a plan to which we can refer, which we can implement, and which we can adapt if that becomes necessary,” she said. “It reflects the best thinking of all involved, but we also recognize that conditions are evolving. We will continue to assess and adjust our response as we move through the coming weeks and months—as we have since the early days of the pandemic.”

The Kaua‘i County Council, Friday, issued a letter to Ige asking the state to reconsider the two-test plan, citing public health officials that have said a single test will miss “at least 30% of travelers infected with COVID-19.”

“The Council sees the importance of administering a two-test plan for incoming travelers to keep COVID-19 case counts low and minimize the chances for another economic shut down,” the letter said.
Source: The Garden Island

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