Wherever you travel, the least you can hope for is a warm welcome. Tourism is the lifeblood of many destinations, and any tourist entering Hawaii, or Kauai right now is already jumping through hoops, including a negative covid-19 test before departure, at their own expense. At circa $150 a pop, they’re not cheap.
But for some locals in Kauai who want more out of their visitors, or no visitors at all, there’s a new rebellion afoot in the island, after Mayor Derek Kawakami backed down from plans to enforce a second test on visitors. The rebellion? Select Kauai restaurants are refusing service to tourists. It’s not off to a pretty start…
Unhappy Restaurants, Unhappy Tourists
Tourists and residents returning from the mainland and other islands are being told they’re not welcome in select restaurants on Kauai, and other islands. Online orders are still being accepted, but a variety of restaurants have posted notices that visitors and those recently returned from travel are not welcome to sit and enjoy any outdoor dining.
It’s the latest stand off between locals, tourists and government officials who can’t seem to get along. Kauai’s mayor requested a second covid-19 test three days after arrival, but Hawaii State Government overruled the request, stating it would add too much complexity to the already large ask of pre-flight covid-19 testing in place of prohibitive 14 day quarantine periods.
Locals, spooked of potential for virus spread through visitors, despite incredibly low statistical evidence of any additional worries are refusing sit down service to anyone who has yet to complete 14 days of quarantine, according to news reports from the Honolulu Star, and KHON.
Of course, the state dropped 14 day quarantine for mainland US visitors who take a covid-19 test prior to flight, which means these local businesses are creating their own rules, which visitors aren’t necessarily subject to. Those who travel intra-island without leaving Honolulu Airport on arrival are also exempt from 14 day quarantine, but that doesn’t change the opinion of many business owners.
“(Our) plan is to keep our area safe of travelers so the locals can have somewhere to feel safe eating not crowded by visitors that may or may not be COVID positive.”Kauai Restaurant
Restaurant owners are said to be checking for local state ID and are refusing sit down dining service to anyone without one. Since locals may also have traveled off the island recently and restaurants can’t purely determine travel from a local ID, the individualist policy seems more xenophobic than covid-19 secure.
It’s hardly the welcome many visitors keen to dine in local establishments were expecting after months without visitors, though food can still be taken away. Kauai has experienced incredibly low covid-19 figures, with fewer than 100 confirmed cases throughout the pandemic. With few intensive care hospital beds available on the island, concern for overwhelmed health systems is real, if not overblown by fear.
The news is the latest in the saga of Hawaii’s approach to reopening. By most country or state standards, pre-departure testing is more secure than others, but locals don’t seem to care. In Europe, very few countries require covid-19 testing of any kind prior to or during intra-European travel. In Asia, covid-19 testing is more commonplace, but quarantine restrictions are constantly being reduced.
Travel hasn’t been named globally as a large contributing factor to surging covid-19 cases in recent months, and recent studies regarding air quality on planes, believed to be 5x more secure than that of a hospital operating rooms only bolster those claims. According to studies in Canada, pre-flight testing is seen to catch up to 80% of cases.
Mask wearing, social distancing and practical hygiene make transmission, even for travelers who do slip through the cracks, far more unlikely. Authorities, including Lt. Governor Josh Green, have urged locals to take matters more into their own hands by following these measures, rather than punishing tourist arrivals. Only time will tell.
Just don’t expect that welcome punch bowl. You might be more likely to get a punch in the face, depending on which establishments you visit.