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Ige, Kawakami, Victorino discuss ‘resort bubble’ concept

  • KAWAKAMI

  • VICTORINO

  • IGE

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo Westin Hapuna Beach Hotel Manager Tom Cross talks Aug. 13 about safety precautions in place for guest check-in at the South Kohala resort. Gov. David Ige, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino spoke about the concept of “resort bubbles” during Thursday’s COVID-19 media conference via Zoom. The concept would allow counties to establish a program with resort or hotel facilities to institute a program to allow visitors to move through the resort while under 14-day quarantine instead of being confined to their rooms.

The concept of what the state calls “enhanced movement quarantine” or “resort bubble” dominated Thursday’s COVID-19 media conference as Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino joined Gov. David Ige via Zoom.

Under the concept, counties can establish a program through agreements with resort or hotel facilities to institute a program that would allow visitors to move through the resort while under 14-day quarantine instead of being confined to their rooms.

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Under Ige’s 12th emergency proclamation, which was announced Thursday, 14-day quarantines remain in place for both trans-Pacific and interisland arrivals through September.

“This does not eliminate the 14-day quarantine. This provides an alternative,” Kawakami said. “The other thing I’d like to note is that this is a continued work in progress.”

Kawakami said participating hotels and resorts would “have to opt in.”

“Resorts would have to show burden of proof that they have the ability and process and systems in place to keep their associates healthy and safe, as well as their guests — and, of course, most importantly, our people who live here day in and day out,” he said.

Kawakami added that participating resorts would have the burden to keep guests on the property and educate them “on what the boundaries are.”

Displaying a device that looked like a wristwatch, Kawakami said it was a security device that, when deployed, “would alert the resort, as well as law enforcement, that there is somebody crossing the line.”

“If somebody tries to take this band off, it would also ping resort security, as well as our local law enforcement personnel,” he said. “Coupled with that, we’re also working with a Hawaii-based group on digital contact tracing.”

Victorino said his concept of the bubble would have groups of employees at participating hotels and resorts stay on the property.

“They would … be tested the first day they come to work, work five days, be tested again and stay on property. … Right now, they have extra rooms and wings that’ll be (largely unoccupied) for quite awhile,” Victorino said. “Until we get past this initial stage, I would like to have groupings so when it comes time for contact tracing, it’s a lot easier and a lot safer, and they don’t go home and spread it to their families.”

Ige said hotels and resorts can’t discriminate against local residents who want a “staycation,” but quarantine requirements would be a bit different.

“If someone is going to a hotel on an island which they reside, they are not subject to quarantine,” Ige said. “… For example, on Oahu, I can go into any hotel that is open … and would not be part (of) any quarantine or subject to any kind of travel bubble. If I decided to go on vacation in Kauai, for example, I would be subject to quarantine, because we have the interisland quarantine.”

Kawakami reiterated that hotels and resorts have the option of waiting for the state’s pre-travel COVID-19 passenger testing program to start, which will be Oct. 1 at the earliest, or they can “continue to operate as is.”

“But from what we hear, they are suffering, as far as customer count,” he said. “And this is something that has been done in areas like Hong Kong and Bermuda, to some level of success, as well, and it is much more restrictive than the pre-test travel program.”

According to Kawakami, the process in the “still in research and development.”

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“Technology is not a replacement for human behavior,” he said. “… And, really, this is about teaching people how to coexist with a virus.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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