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Kauaʻi Mayor Asks Residents to Respect COVID-19 Contact Tracers as Cases Surge

Office of the Mayor

As COVID-19 cases surge on Kauaʻi, the mayor is asking residents to cooperate with health department contact tracers — some people have been verbally abusive.

During the first sixteen months of the pandemic, Kauaʻi had two coronavirus-related deaths. In August alone, the island reported four additional fatalities.

The high daily case counts are now exceeding the Kauaʻi District Health Office’s capacity for COVID-19 case investigation and contact tracing — in spite of adding new staff every day.

When state Department of Health staff conduct surveys for contact tracing, sometimes they are met with verbally abusive responses — Mayor Derek Kawakami is asking Kauaʻi residents to cooperate.

"These are members of our community and they are only trying to make sure everyone is safe, especially people who are infected with COVID-19 or are close contacts," Kawakami said at a county briefing. "There’s a number of reasons why they’ll call, to check on their health, to check on their status — importantly, to make sure anyone they have been in close contact with is safe and healthy as well."

The mayor urged Kauaʻi residents to avoid travel and gathering in large groups, and asked that they wear masks. He asked residents to stay home when sick and get tested, and get vaccinated to avoid a possible lockdown.

"(Contact tracers) are just doing their job. If the DOH contact tracers call you, help them out," the mayor said. "They’re not being niele — they’re not being nosy. They don’t judge, they’re just trying to make sure you and your neighbors are safe. They’re working to save lives. They deserve your respect."

Information on testing and vaccination sites can be found here.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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