The City & County of Honolulu is reserving as many as 221 rooms at the Park Shore Waikiki and is leasing the 46-room Waikiki Beachside Hostel to quarantine and isolate Oahu residents who contract or were exposed to COVID-19.
“It’s our insurance policy,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today at a news conference outside the Honolulu Zoo, across from the Park Shore. “As we open up to visitors, as we open our schools up, as we move into tier 2 that should we increase the number of cases, we have a place to isolate those who test positive or come in close contact with those who are positive. We want to be ready now, not building a plane as we take off.”
The city’s agreement with Park Shore owner and operator Highgate Hotels, which also operates another quarantine site, the Pearl Hotel Waikiki, allows it to activate hotel rooms in phases of 80, 150 or 221 as needed with a five-day notice. No money is paid until the rooms are occupied. The state Department of Health will handle the assessment and intake of clients, transportation to the hotel, meals and monitoring under a separate contract.
Meanwhile, the selection of the Waikiki Beachside on Lemon Road, which is under lease through September 2022, is stirring strife among area residents.
Kathryn Henski, a Waikiki Neighborhood Board member who lives in close proximity to the facility, criticized the city for leaving the opinions of residents out of the decision making.
“The city or state has pulled a fast one on us. Originally, they touted this project around town as a COVID quarantine center,” Henski said. “We only learned at the last neighborhood board meeting that they’ve already leased the building and they also plan to do psychiatric care and drug care there. Our densely populated community is not the place for this facility.”
Waikiki is “where you have destination weddings, not destination COVID care,” she added.
“Why are they bunching all of these facilities in Waikiki instead of using other facilities like Leahi Hospital, which was a tuberculosis quarantine area and was a leprosy quarantine area,” she said. “There isn’t even security for this and I don’t even think we are even zoned for these uses.”
DOH Deputy Director of Behavioral Health Eddie Mersereau said the state met with the Waikiki neighborhood board last week and “definitely understand and recognize the concern that folks have.”
“This is not necessarily just going to be substance abuse treatment or mental health or homeless treatment. This is designated for folks who have a higher acuity of need,” he said. “Certainly we’re not going to be doing any real … mental health or behavioral health treatment on-site except for that which is necessary to keep folks stable while they’re doing quarantine and isolation. Quarantine and isolation is the primary goal.”
Drug treatment will not be conducted at the site, the city said.
By the end of the week, Oahu will have more than 450 rooms, up from about 293 units, for the isolation and quarantine of residents, including first responders, who cannot safely isolate while recovering from COVID-19.
The contracts run through the end of the year.
Hawaii recorded 39 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 14,068 cases. Health officials counted 1,985 tests in the latest tally, which equates to a 2% statewide positivity rate.
The official state death toll remains unchanged at 187, with 150 on Oahu, 18 each on Hawaii island and Maui, and one Kauai resident who died on the mainland. However, health officials have yet to verify coronavirus as a factor in more than 20 Hawaii Island fatalities.
Two coronavirus deaths announced over the weekend on Oahu were a woman over the age of 80, and a man in his 60s, both with underlying medical conditions.
There are 2,803 active infections statewide and 11,078 patients now considered recovered, or about 79% of those infected.
The mayor said he is also drafting an order for Oahu to move into the second phase of the city’s reopening plan, which would allow gyms, personal services and other activities to resume on Thursday.
Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.
Watch the briefing via the video above, or go to Mayor Caldwell’s Facebook page.