Kauaʻi’s government and community leaders have called on residents to help them avoid another island-wide shutdown as COVID-19 cases continue to surge locally and throughout the state.
On Thursday, Aug. 26, Mayor Derek SK Kawakami held a press conference at the county’s Mo‘ikeha Rotunda where he as well as health officials, first responders, restaurant owners, entertainers, youth sports coaches, ecclesiastical leaders and community leaders pleaded with the public to stay vigilant in the fight against the virus.
“It’s been a long haul,” Kawakami said. “People are tired, but we must push through.”
Cases have been on the rise for months as the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant made its way to the state.
On Thursday, the Kauaʻi District Health Office reported 33 new cases on the island, 10 children and 23 adults. There are currently 252 active cases, with three hospitalized, and 1,232 cumulative cases.
“Delta is different,” Kawakami said. “It is more contagious, it is more dangerous and it is more of a threat than the virus we knew last year. But we can win this fight by working together.”
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Kawakami implemented the most stringent of restrictions compared to other counties throughout the state. On Thursday, he said the restrictions helped the government and health care community build a robust testing program and vaccination rollout.
“We set out to build a resilient and informed community that could take action if called up,” Kawakami said. “Our plan worked. But it came with severe sacrifice.”
At this point, the mayor said there’s no single government restriction that is going to work against the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
“We are in an all-or-nothing fight,” he said. “The only logical restriction moving forward would be a lockdown. But we don’t have to do that if we can come together, shift our behavior.”
In an effort to avoid a lockdown, Kawakami is calling on residents to not travel unless necessary, don’t gather in large groups and gather outdoors, wear a mask, stay home when sick and get vaccinated.
Health officials also spoke at the press conference Thursday. Dr. Carol Fujioshi, chief-of-staff at Wilcox Medical Center, said the hospital has the capability and is prepared to care for patients with and without COVID.
“We do have a surge plan in place,” Fujioshi said.
Fujioshi also encouraged residents not to delay care because of COVID-19.
Kauaʻi District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said they know that rising cases will be followed by more hospitalizations and deaths.
In the first 16 months of the pandemic, Berreman said there were two deaths. So far there have been three in August.
“We need to do more — we need to take action today,” Berreman said. “There is no guarantee the calls to action will slow the spread enough to avoid further restrictions, they are our best hope. Let’s do what Kauaʻi does best and come together to overcome this challenge.”
Among Thursday’s speakers was Gini Kapali, or Aunty Gini.
“You and I have been through two hurricanes and disasters on this island and we pulled through,” Kapali said. “So please, all of you, we can do this again going forward. Please, please listen to everybody that has been giving you the greatest advice.”