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Economic reboot

LIHU‘E — As of Tuesday, Kaua‘i now has zero active confirmed cases of COVID-19 on island, and Mayor Derek Kawakami says there are teams of experts working to reopen the local economy.

A big part of that plan hinges on Gov. David Ige’s emergency rules, which Kawakami acknowledged Tuesday have “become complicated and hard to follow.”

“We plan to simplify this information to make it easier for all of us to understand,” Kawakami said in a Tuesday video public address, promising an update on that process in his video address today.

Tuesday, The Garden Island asked for further details on the plan to reopen in light of Ige’s emergency rules, but a spokesperson said rule proposals have to go through the governor for review and approval before the content of those proposals could be released.

In a Tuesday webinar hosted by the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team on Finance emphasized both self-discipline for the community regarding hygiene and social-distancing practices, and acknowledged the big project Kaua‘i has ahead of itself in reopening the economy.

The team is one of eight, each dedicated to a different sector of the economy, that are working together to form a path forward.

“Shutting everything down and limiting the amount of movement was the easy part,” Kawakami said in the Tuesday webinar. “The challenging part is, while we restart the local economy, being able to balance economic health with the medical health and not having that surge of COVID-19.”

More frequent and available testing could be the key to successfully navigating that balancing act, he said.

There’s been a shift in focus for the Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team as well, a pivot away from defining businesses as either “essential” or “nonessential” to defining businesses based on a COVID-19 risk level.

“What industries pose relatively low risk that we can get (back into) the workforce?” Kawakami asked. “At this point, every local-based business is essential.”

Also part of the Tuesday Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team on finance webinar were Kaua‘i leaders like Mark Perriello, president of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Gabbard addressed the tourism industry, promising further funding in “amounts yet to be negotiated” to make up for loss of revenue for the industry and other sectors of the local economy.

She also cautioned against believing that the world will ever return to “normal,” using tourism and travel as an example.

“We have to be clear-eyed. The reality (is that) it is unlikely that we will go back to exactly where we were,” Gabbard said. “A real question mark about what does travel look like and the day-to-day of doing business, it will change. It’s guaranteed that it will change — it’s a matter of how.”

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Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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