New emergency order extends Hawaii traveler quarantine but allows for ‘resort bubbles'

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 3:55 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 3:57 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor has extended mandatory quarantine orders for travelers through Sept. 30, but has also opened the door to so-called “resort bubbles.”

The concept would allow trans-Pacific travelers to fulfill their 14-day mandatory quarantines at resorts, staying on property — potentially wearing a tracker the whole time — but enjoying the amenities.

Officials say the idea is promising, but warned there are still many unanswered questions.

Meanwhile, a union that represents thousands of hotel workers questioned the timing of the announcement, pointing to a surge in new COVID-19 cases on Oahu and questions about the state’s response.

“Our jobs won’t come back until we have proved that we can keep COVID-19 under control,” UNITE HERE! Local 5 said, in a statement. “Hawaii is blowing our one chance to get it right.”

Gov. David Ige announced the quarantine extensions Thursday and “resort bubble” concept at a news conference Thursday. The order means Oct. 1 would be the earliest the state might launch a traveler pre-testing program, allowing trans-Pacific visitors to avoid quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.

Resort bubbles wouldn’t allow visitors to skirt the quarantine order, but would allow them to complete the 14-day period at a resort (rather than stuck in their room).

Mayor Kawakami provides details about potential geofencing devices.

At a news conference Thursday, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the resort bubble proposal is a “work in progress,” but one that could allow the state to tiptoe toward a reopening of the travel industry.

He said resorts would be allowed to opt in after showing that they can police their guests and follow protocols. Kawakami said participants would also have to wear bands that track their movements, ensuring they are staying within the resort’s boundaries.

“This is one way in a staged approach to reopening the visitor industry,” Kawakami said, adding that some questions still need to be addressed. “What we’re trying to do is mitigate risk.”

It appears that Kauai County is farthest along in figuring out how resort bubbles might work.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino also supported the idea Thursday, and said it shows promise. “We still are a ways off to being able to effectively open up,” he said.

The travel bubble proposal comes as Oahu and Neighbor Islands continue to struggle to ensure travelers are actually following the quarantine order — and as the number of visitors ticks up.

Kawakami said that chasing quarantine violators is a stress on the police department and a drain on resources. Giving visitors a way to complete the 14-day quarantine at a resort could be a win-win, he said.

Hawaii residents had mixed reactions regarding the announcement.

“I totally support that. This situation is new for everybody. We’re going to have to be creative. The paradigm that we used to live before is totally different,” said Oahu resident Jorge Gutierrez.

“If I paid good money to come to Hawaii, I don’t think I would want to reside in my hotel the whole time. I came here for a vacation. If I’ve never been to the island, I’d like to be able to see it,” Waikiki resident Jim Courtney said.

Some residents are skeptical how effective the tracking bands will be.

“As long as it’s enforced, it could be an OK idea,” said Matthew Monju, another Waikiki resident. “But I could also see people breaking rules and exploring the island because who wouldn’t if you came to Hawaii? You would be so tempted to go North Shore, whereever.”

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.