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Kaua’i resorts can apply to become quarantine “bubbles” for visitors

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    KAUA’I COUNTY, Hawaii (KITV) — The idea of resort bubbles on the Garden Isle received a green light from Governor David Ige today. If it works, it allows visitors to quarantine on properties without having to stay in their rooms.

Kaua’i County Mayor Derek Kawakami says the “Enhanced Movement Quarantine Program” won’t allow tourists to run around resorts flouting COVID-19 guidelines. Instead, he says it’s a different way to quarantine, a way to get Kauai residents back to work and a way to ease the burden on law enforcement.

The County is working with at least five hotels, which will be required to police their own properties and submit new operating rules to help protect both guests and employees.

“They’re continuing to meet one-on-one with some of the interested parties that would like to proceed whether or not October happens at the state level, they understand the value of having a contingency plan,” Mayor Kawakami. “We’re giving them guidance, you know, businesses want an opportunity to have some predictability as to what is expected.”

Other requirements include electronic monitoring bracelets to track guests — who will be allowed to access resort amenities and restaurants, but if they leave the property or tamper with the unit, hotel security will contact police.

“From a law enforcement standpoint, it is extremely challenging. We have almost 1900 individuals, under 14 day quarantine, which our officers have to do checks on with the national guard, with Kaua’i Visitors Bureau,” Mayor Kawakami said. “This is the compass. We’re setting the direction, follow this, and then help us build upon this foundation to something that is acceptable to us as far as managing health and safety and recovery of our economy as well.”

Sissy Kahale has worked at the Sheraton Kaua’i for more than 30 years — she thinks the program may work — but DOES have reservations, especially when it comes to enforcing rules.

“We have guests that travel from all over the world. They don’t just come from the mainland. They come from Japan, they come from India, they come from Germany and everybody has their culture and the way they do things. And I don’t think people understand when you’re supposed to be wearing your mask constantly when you’re outside of your room will go across easily because they’re on vacation. They’re not wanting to mask up,” she said. “It just adds to the additional stress going in and coming home and thinking that I could be contaminating my family. Is that safe? Is that right? Does that make me feel comfortable? No, it doesn’t.”

Gary Moore, managing director of Timbers Resorts, says it’s taking part.

“We’ve been working over the last 72 hours with County officials putting together our operating protocols and our internal safety measures to allow visitors to come and stay with us inside of our 450 acre resort,” he said.

“If you have the communication upfront with the guests, with the folks that are coming in and they understand, and they don’t arrive and they’re surprised. Wait, I have to wear this bracelet. Wait, I have to do this. Wait, I have to do that. Then you haven’t done your job. You know, that’s our job. It’s our job to ensure that this program works. We need to get Hawaii and Hawaii back working again. And that’s what we’re committed to doing,” he said.

Mayor Kawakami says he’s confident resort operators can get it right.

“This would be a use certificate. So like anything else, it can be a revoked but for the most part, these hotels are going to invest. Like it’s an investment. They need to operate. They need to get their associates back to work. So there’s a vested interest in their ability to maintain within the guidelines that you set and to comply,”

Violators face fines up to $5,000 — a year in jail, or both.

Mayor Kawakami calls the program a “work in progress” with no launch date set.

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