Unvaccinated People Are Banned From These Hotels, Starting Oct. 15
This new mandate goes into effect in just a few weeks.
Hawaii has enacted some of the strictest restrictions throughout the pandemic, from a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the islands before the vaccine rollout to the current 10-day quarantine for any unvaccinated people who won't get tested for COVID. Governor David Ige has been urging travelers to delay visiting, as Hawaii deals with an accelerated surge of COVID cases and a lack of available health care resources, and it's clear the state is not afraid to get tough on unvaccinated visitors. Now, Hawaii is becoming even less hospitable to tourists who haven't gotten their COVID shots, with many major hotels in the state cracking down on unvaccinated guests.
Highgate Hotels Hawaii announced in early September that it would eventually be requiring that all guests be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Travel Weekly reported. The hospitality company owns seven properties around Hawaii, including the popular 'Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach and the Courtyard Marriott in Waikiki.
"We will no longer accept the COVID-19 test as a form of an exemption," Kelly Sanders, the senior vice president of operations of Highgate Hawaii, said in a statement, per Hawaii News Now. There will be exemptions allowed for medical or religious reasons, as well as an exception for children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
The vaccine mandate goes into effect Oct. 15 and also requires that all staff be vaccinated as well. According to Sanders, an estimated 80 percent of the Highgate's 1,000 employees are already vaccinated.
"Everyone working for Highgate in Hawaii will be vaccinated, and that starts our journey on becoming the safe place to come and stay," Sanders said. "But we can't ask all employees to be vaccinated if we don't also ask guests and patrons to live up to the same standard we're setting for our people."
The other affected Highgate properties include the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel, Park Shore Waikiki, Ambassador Waikiki Hotel, Pearl Waikiki Hotel, and the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach.
Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that unlike the U.S. mainland, Hawaii's isolation makes it difficult to find and provide alternative health care resources to patients when island hospitals are overrun by COVID patients taking over resources and ICU space.
"We don't have the luxury of flying someone or driving someone to another hospital if our system gets overwhelmed," he told the news outlet on Sept. 27. "It's 2,500 miles away to the nearest assistance, and clearly, once our hospitals are overwhelmed, then the whole notion of crisis standards of care and how we will ration care would become front and center … We haven't had to ration care, and we don't want to."
Currently, Hawaii is experiencing about 350 to 400 new coronavirus cases daily, according to The New York Times. While this is a clear decline from the 700 to 1,000 new cases the state was experiencing in early September, Ige said there is still a ways to go until the islands are safe enough for tourists. That will likely include the need for more restrictions and mandates, the governor added.
"I am hopeful that we will release more restrictions and be able to invite those who are vaccinated back to the islands because we do know that it's important to our economy and important to getting everybody back to work," Ige said.