The governor has extended mandatory quarantine orders for travelers through Sept. 30, but has also opened the door to so-called “resort bubbles.”

The extension means that trans-Pacific travelers still need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Inter-island travelers must also quarantine after landing, except for those arriving on Oahu.

Gov. David Ige announced the extensions Thursday, saying he understands the toll that quarantine is taking on the tourism industry. With the pre-travel testing program on hold at least through Oct. 1, the order includes new approval for so-called “resort bubbles” in the islands.

Governor David Ige gestures during the contact tracing press conference held at the Hawaii Convention Center. August 19, 2020
Gov. David Ige’s latest emergency order extends the 14-day quarantine for people flying into the state, but opens up the possibility of “resort bubbles.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Resort bubbles wouldn’t allow visitors to skirt the quarantine order, but would allow them to complete the 14-day period at a resort (rather than stuck in their rooms), using the amenities but staying on property.

At a news conference Thursday, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the resort bubble proposal is a “work in progress,” but one that could allow the state to tiptoe toward a reopening of the travel industry.

He said resorts would be allowed to opt in after showing that they can police their guests and follow protocols. Kawakami said participants would also have to wear bands that track their movements, ensuring they are staying within the resort’s boundaries.

“This is one way in a staged approach to reopening the visitor industry,” Kawakami said, adding that some questions still need to be addressed. “What we’re trying to do is mitigate risk.”

It appears that Kauai County is farthest along in figuring out how resort bubbles might work.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino also supported the idea Thursday, and said it shows promise. “We still are a ways off to being able to effectively open up,” he said.

The travel bubble proposal comes as Oahu and Neighbor Islands continue to struggle to ensure travelers are actually following the quarantine order — and as the number of visitors ticks up.

Kawakami said that chasing quarantine violators is a stress on the police department and a drain on resources. Giving visitors a way to complete the 14-day quarantine at a resort could be a win-win, he said.

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