In Waikiki, visitors and workers alike take precautions amid coronavirus fears

The modern-day Waikiki is considered a tourism mecca on the global scale.
The modern-day Waikiki is considered a tourism mecca on the global scale.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Feb. 14, 2020 at 9:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A number of visitors in Waikiki on Friday said they were concerned by news that a Japanese national was diagnosed with the coronavirus a day after leaving Hawaii.

But none of the tourists observed walking along Kalakaua Avenue were wearing masks. And they also said they still feel safe.

“We had this trip planned,” said Illinois resident John Hochmuth. “We heard about the virus, but we never canceled. We thought we could safely make the trip.”

Hochmuth has been taking precautions, mainly when he’s flying.

“We wipe everything down when we get on the airplane with alcohol disinfectants," he said.

There are also precautions at Waikiki hotels, including the Hilton Hawaiian Village. That’s where the Grand Waikikian — the timeshare where the Japanese national stayed on Oahu — is located.

“As part of our uniform, using those masks, everything that will help, gloves and everything, just to protect ourselves and not only us, not to spread it to the guests” said Hilton housekeeper Mary Taboniar.

Taboniar is among the Hilton housekeepers represented by the Local 5 union. The Grand Waikikian is owned by another Hilton subsidiary.

There are concerns about how the virus could affect the visitor industry in the long term.

“People in power in our place really heave to think about this as a major problem for the economy, and for the safety of everybody,” said Bella Henderson, who splits her time between Vancouver and Hawaii.

Earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Josh Green met with union leadersto discuss the response to the virus.

Meanwhile, work is underway to completely retrace the visitor’s whereabouts, including his Hawaiian Airlines flight from Kahului to Honolulu.

“All those can be tracked, and the airline will do ... a very thorough job in trying to locate where this individual was seated, when he booked, what gate he went through, what flight he went on,” said HNN law enforcement expert Tommy Aiu.

Aiu also said while keeping the virus from spreading is not necessarily a law enforcement issue, it is a public safety issue. And he believes the right things are being done to maintain public safety.

“I think it’s very well under control,” he said. “All the indentifiers have been met. The individual has been identified, and the Japanese ministry of health is addressing the issue there.,”

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