As Kaua‘i County continues its conversations in creating a “resort bubble” program, the state has confirmed it will start the pre-travel testing program on Oct. 15.
The hope for pre-travel testing program is that it will protect public health and revive the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re committed to restoring and revitalizing the economy,” Gov. David Ige said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Travelers will be exempt from the state’s 14-day quarantine if they return a negative result after submitting to a test 72 hours prior to arrival in Hawai‘i.
For six months, Hawai‘i’s economy has all but halted due to the health crisis, resulting in the closure of businesses and thousands of people losing their jobs. In an effort to get people back to work and stimulate the economy, Kauai County is moving forward with a resort bubble program, which would allow visitors to come to the island but remain at the resort.
Five Kaua‘i hotels have expressed interest in the county’s program. Timbers Kaua‘i, Hokuala Resort has submitted an application to the program. Gary Moore, managing director of the resort, said the resort already made the decision to require a negative test 72 hours prior to arriving in the state.
With the launch of the pre-travel testing program insight, Moore isn’t sure how it will affect the resort bubble program.
“Everything is changing by the day right now,” Moore said.
If the resort bubble does go through, Moore said Timbers has rewritten its operating procedures, restructured its common areas to accommodate social distancing and guests will be required to wear tracking devices, costing $80, to ensure they stay on resort grounds.
“The reality of the situation is we’re going to be living with this disease for the foreseeable future, so what are we going to do?” Moore questioned. “When you look at the data and how other communities are handling it well, they have been able to control it. It doesn’t mean people aren’t going to get infected, but people are able to get back to work.”
In order to participate in the resort bubble program, resorts must establish security and enforcement policies to protect the safety of both guests and employees of the resort. Security and enforcement are the responsibility of the resort, and all rules, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing, must be followed.
General manager Robert “Mick” Minicola at Kaua‘i Beach Resort has not elected to have his hotel be part of the program explaining he is keeping the focus on inter-island travel and kama‘aina until things things fully reopen.
Having a bubble for residents and another for visitors, Minicola said, he doesn’t think it would mix.
The county is in direct discussion with Timbers as well as other properties interested in the resort bubble to draft a safety plan, officials stated to Big Island Now in an email Wednesday. Beach access has not yet been determined but is part of the ongoing discussions.
On Sept. 15, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami announced new emergency rule 16, which establishes an Enhanced Movement Quarantine, or “Resort Bubble,” program.
“We understand the need to address the economic hardship facing our tourism-based community, while also preserving the safety of our residents,” Kawakami said. “The Resort Bubble program is an added tool to reopening our economy while we learn to co-exist with this virus. It’s not a replacement or the final solution, and we will continue to keep our community updated as we make progress.”
Visitors who wish to stay at an Enhanced Movement Quarantine resort must agree to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet that is tracked by the resort. Within established limits, they can utilize the entire resort property, including on-site pools and restaurants. If the monitoring unit is tampered with or the visitor leaves the resort property, hotel security will notify the Kaua‘i Police Department for enforcement.
Any person violating any rule of the governor or mayor, if convicted, could face a fine of up to $5,000 or serve up to a year in jail, or both.