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Nearly 300 hotel rooms islandwide available for those who can’t quarantine at home

Updated: Sep. 11, 2020 at 8:25 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Department of Health is working with the city to isolate COVID-19 patients at a number of hotels.

The program is meant for people who can’t safely quarantine or isolate in their own homes, including first responders and those who live in multi-generational families.

“We wanted to give the public an inside look at the quarantine and isolation systems that we’re utilizing,” said Ed Mersereau, DOH Behavioral Health deputy director.

Participants who have tested positive for coronavirus, or are still awaiting results, are picked up by DOH staff and transported to one of nine facilities across the state.

There are currently 293 total rooms across Oahu that can be used for quarantine and isolation.

The Pearl Hotel in Waikiki is the largest, with 130 rooms.

“This was initially something we didn’t want to talk about,” said Kelly Sanders, vice president of operations at Highgate, the management company for the Pearl Hotel.

The names of the facilities are usually confidential. However, management at the Pearl Hotel wanted to be transparent.

“We wanted to tell the real story about why this is so critical and the need, the real critical need in our community,” said Sanders.

Mersereau said the other quarantine and isolation hotels wished to remain anonymous.

Some people living nearby have expressed concern about the quarantine program.

City, state and hotel staff say they understand the fears but insist they are taking all the necessary precautions to keep people safe.

“We probably needed to do a better job communicating with the public about what actually goes on, which is part of the reason why you’re all here today,” Mersereau said.

Sanders says doors at the Pearl Hotel are staffed 24/7 and no one can get in or out without authorization.

“We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of kind of being on the front line, really supporting those who need the most help right now,” said Sanders.

Mersereau says three meals are dropped off at doors daily, cleaning crews spend three days sanitizing each room after someone leaves and health checks are around the clock.

“The case management team does a minimum of three times a day wellness checks with all of the quests that are in the hotel,” he said.

The federal government provided the city with $387 million in CARES funding to help combat COVID-19.

“There is quite a bit of money. It’s going to expire at the end of the year. So, we wanted to make sure we made the best of it and to help the people who most need it,” said Sandy Pfund, Honolulu Department of Land management director.

Pfund said the contact with the hotel costs about $400,000 a month. She said they are also working on acquiring rooms at additional hotels.

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