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Maui County Officials: “Closing Business Will Not Solve the Problem of Community Spread”

By Wendy Osher

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino has requested the approval of new rules for the County of Maui as the number of new COVID-19 cases remain elevated.

The state Department of Health reported 33 new cases on Maui today (on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021). Over the past seven days Maui has had:

  • 33 cases on Monday, Jan. 11
  • 30 cases on Sunday, Jan. 10
  • 51 cases on Saturday, Jan. 9
  • 23 cases on Friday, Jan. 8
  • 56 cases on Thursday, Jan. 7
  • 29 cases on Wednesday, Jan. 6 and
  • 21 cases on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

“After consulting with the State Department of Health and the governor, it was determined that closing businesses will not solve the problem of community spread,” said Maui Managing Director Sandy Baz during a media briefing on Monday afternoon.

He outlined proposed rules for Maui County, which still need approval from the governor in order to go into effect. The proposal includes:

  • Restricting large retail facilities (like Costco, Target and Walmart) to a capacity of 30 percent or less.
  • Restricting smaller retailers (including mom-and-pop stores) to 50 percent capacity.
  • Anyone traveling under the essential worker exemption would be required to undergo testing if they plan to be in Maui County longer than 24 hours. Prior to departure to Maui, the traveler would need to have a negative test result. (If they’re here for a single day or overnight working, they would not be subject to the rule if they’re here less than 24 hours).
  • Travelers into Maui County would be required to download the AlohaSafe Alert contact tracing app, or have the Google app exposure notification from their home state active on their phone.  County officials say they want to make this mandatory to enable them the ability to electronically find out if those traveling into the community had extended contact with someone who tested positive.

***Again, the above rules would require approval in order to take effect. A timeline for the proposed rules was not discussed publicly and further details are pending release.

The state Department of Health has linked the current surge to social gatherings during the holidays, and Mayor Victorino has said he is hoping to see a leveling off of cases by the end of the month.

When asked what happens if numbers do not come down by the end of the month, Mayor Victorino said the county would be “looking at going maybe (into a) Safer-at-Home” situation. “But I’m hoping that… the more we vaccinate, the more people do what is right, the less they get together, less social gatherings… I think we’ll be in good shape,” said Mayor Victorino.

The Mayor last amended Maui’s Public Health Emergency Rules on Jan. 2. The current rules already in place from that change include:

  • Social gatherings decrease to five individuals. This applies to people who are not of the same household.
  • Limiting bar and restaurant occupancy to no more than 30 percent of allowed interior occupancy. This is down from 50 percent.  
  • Bars and restaurants are asked to close by 10 p.m. on each evening. 

County officials say there’s been aggressive community testing, aimed at early detection to limit further spread of COVID-19.

“As you know, we have been having double digit numbers for quite a while here and we are very, very concerned about that. Part of the reason why we’re getting double-digit numbers is because we’re doing a lot of testing,” said Baz.

“We’re trying to root out positive cases, get them isolated, get the contact tracing done… We’re really trying to isolate it so that it can keep it from spreading any farther than it already has. It really takes your assistance with that. So we encourage everybody to get test(ed),” said Baz.

County officials say the new cases are primarily community spread, with most cases spread across Maui households within the 2-3 week period after the holidays.

“While the vaccine is rolling out, everyone needs to keep following health guidelines. You know what to do: stay at home unless it’s for essential reasons, and above all, do not gather with others outside of your household… wear your face masks, watch your physical distancing, wash your hands frequently,” said Baz.

“Whatever restrictive action Maui County takes in the future depends on what the people of Maui County do to protect yourselves and our community,” he said.

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2021/01/11/maui-county-officials-closing-business-will-not-solve-the-problem-of-community-spread/

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