LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i is moving forward with the resort-bubble plan, offering a collaboration with hotels, which includes the safety guidance, expectations and overall instructions of a geo-fencing-technology device that sets boundaries for guests confined to the property due to COVID-19 quarantine.
The resort bubble, which county and state officials have been discussing, would offer those travelers subject to quarantine an option to stay on an “enhanced movement quarantine” property — hotel properties that would make up the resort bubbles — so they aren’t confined just to their hotel rooms. It’s a staged approach to re-introducing visitors to the state in a way that helps to protect residents.
“When it comes to balancing our physical and economic health, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Mayor Derek Kawakami in a Thursday press release with Gov. David Ige. “The 14-day quarantine has helped to keep the virus at bay, but we also know it comes at a cost.”
Kawakami said while the county supports the governor’s decision to push back the pre-travel screening date beyond Sept. 1, they know they need to actively look at ways to help support the economy.
“From the beginning, we’ve talked about a staged approach to reopening,” said Kawakami. “At a certain point, we need to learn to coexist with the virus.”
He explained the resort bubble, also known as the enhanced movement quarantine, would give visitors “the ability to move about the property and enjoy the resort pool, restaurants, and other amenities while completing their quarantine.”
Kawakami said in order for the resort bubbles to work, many safety and security requirements must be met.
“We are open to working with resorts that are willing to meet these requirements, which are still being developed at this time,” said Kawakami. “But one requirement would be ensuring that those in quarantine are staying within the allowed area.”
The county is testing a geo-fencing-technology and electronic-quarantine option to monitor guest movements on the properties using a device called AQUA (Active Quarantine User Ally) by the company Hub Culture. It’s a wearable unit that tracks your location using GPS and BLE Bluetooth signaling.
“This is a concept that is still very much a work in progress and one that must be properly vetted, so we do not yet have an exact timeline on its potential implementation, “ said Kawakami. “While it’s also a much-more-restrictive model than a pre-travel screening, we feel it’s a concept worth exploring should we need to retreat to another option down the road.”
In the meantime, Kawakami said his team will continue to work with stakeholders, including the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau, resorts and Kaua‘i Police Department to help bring this concept to life.
“All that being said, we should remember that technology is not a replacement for human behavior, and we will continue to push our message about safe practices,” said Kawakami. “The success of resort bubbles will come down to protecting ourselves and the resort staff (their ability to keep their associates safe is key) and attracting the types of visitors who will willingly follow the rules in order to enjoy a safe vacation in Hawai‘i.”
One hotel, the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort &Spa in Po‘ipu, isn’t taking any chances.
General Manager Dan King said he attended a few meetings where the resort-bubble idea was discussed, but as of right now the Hyatt remains closed, and will not reopen until the 14-day quarantine is lifted.
Meanwhile, Ige announced in Thursday’s conference that he has signed a 12th emergency proclamation that extended the COVID-19 emergency period through Sept. 30 and leaves in place the 14-day, mandatory quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers and the interisland travel quarantine only for travelers arriving from between the counties.
“We will continue to work on digitizing and refining the travel-screening process as well as developing enforceable, safe alternatives to self-quarantine,” said Ige.
The proclamation also mandates that all persons must wear masks in compliance with the county orders, rules and directives approved by the governor, and it extends the prohibition on evictions for non-payment of rent until Sept. 30.
On Thursday, the state Department of Health reported 230 new cases of COVID-19 on O‘ahu, five new cases on Hawai‘i Island, one new case on Maui and two new cases on Kaua‘i.
This brings Kaua‘i’s total number of active cases to five, and the cumulative total of cases to date is now 56.
The first new case is an adult male resident who was previously under quarantine as a close contact of an active Kaua‘i case. The second new case is also an adult male resident. The source of his infection remains under investigation, but there is no apparent travel link at this time.
All five active cases are in isolation. The DOH’s contact-tracing investigation is ongoing. All identified close contacts are directed to quarantine and offered a test.
None of the cases have required hospitalization.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.