Governor approves ‘resort bubbles’ for quarantining visitors on Kauai

Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 at 7:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai is the first island to take a step toward relaunching its tourism sector by giving visitors a little freedom during their 14-day quarantine in “resort bubbles.”

The concept would allow visitors at participating hotels to leave their rooms and enjoy on-site amenities while completing the mandatory quarantine.

The catch: All guests have to wear a GPS monitor so hotel security can ensure no one leaves.

It’s an idea the governor signed off on Tuesday. And it’s welcome news to Kauai’s hotel industry.

Kekoa McClellan, a spokesman for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, couldn’t confirm how many properties on the Garden Isle might participate. But HNN has confirmed that Timbers Kauai Hokuala Resort is among the facilities hoping to participate.

“There are models in place,” said McClellan. “It’s not going to happen overnight. This will take several weeks to think through and get the right mechanics in place.”

That includes the creation of a GPS monitoring system.

Under the new rules, all guests must agree to wear an electronic bracelet.

“The bracelet which looks similar to a smart watch utilizes technology called geofencing so their movement can be monitored,” said Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami.

“If at any point a guest should leave the hotel property and break quarantine it will be immediately flagged by hotel security and police will respond.”

Those who violate the rules, though, face a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

New safety protocols will also be in place to limit contact between staff and guests. Everyone will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.

“All of our properties are interested and excited about this opportunity to demonstrate that we can reopen safely when the correct protocols are in place,” McClellan said.

Once all the safety measures are in place, Kawakami says he hopes to see the first resort bubble open up and running by the end of October.

The resort bubble concept is moving forward on Kauai as the island continues to see few or no new COVID-19 infections. According to the Health Department, Kauai has just one active coronavirus case.

Kauai is also forging ahead with the idea as the state tries to launch a traveler pre-testing program that would allow visitors to forgo quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.

That program was to be launched this summer but has been delayed several times.

On Monday, the governor said he will likely extend the mandatory quarantine for trans-Pacific travelers beyond Oct. 1. At the same time, there’s no date for a launch of the traveler testing program.

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