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Emergency rules take effect Friday

County to require closures of certain businesses; road to Hana for local traffic

MICHAEL VICTORINO – Taking action to limit spread

Looking to curb visitor traffic and the spread of the new coronavirus, state and county officials closed Hana Highway and the backside road to nonresidents while imposing a new set of emergency rules that would limit public gatherings starting Friday.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced widespread closures that would go into effect at 7:45 a.m. Friday, mirroring the restrictions that Gov. David Ige called for Tuesday.

“We need to take dramatic action to limit the spread of this infectious virus,” Victorino said in a news release Wednesday. “We cannot do this alone, so we’re asking our community to follow these rules and look out for one another as we face this unprecedented crisis.”

The emergency rules require restaurants and cafes to limit service to takeout and delivery only. Bars, nightclubs, theaters, tourist attractions and other venues where the public gather must remain closed.

Places that sell essential goods will be allowed to remain open. That includes grocery stores, farmers markets, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores and gas stations that sell canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, poultry and other household consumer products, as well as gas and other essential items.

Essential activities that are exempt from the rules include:

• Tasks essential to health and safety, such as getting medicine or seeing a doctor.

• Getting necessary services or supplies for an individual or family and household members.

• Engaging in solitary or small group outdoor activity, such as walking, hiking, running or golfing, provided there is a distance of at least 6 feet between participants.

• Performing work related to operation of an essential business or essential government function.

• Caring for a family member in another household.

• Caring for elderly, minors, dependents, people with disabilities or other vulnerable people.

Exemptions related to essential business functions include:

• Health care operations, including home health workers.

• Essential infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities.

• Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities.

• Pharmacies, health care supply stores and health care facilities.

• Gas stations and auto repair facilities.

• Banks.

• Rubbish collection.

• Hardware stores, plum-bers, electricians and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and businesses.

• Laundromats and laundry service providers.

• Businesses that primarily ship or deliver groceries, food and goods.

• Child care facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work.

• Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.

Victorino said the county would make changes to its normal operations but would remain open. Regular meetings or hearings of boards and commissions will be suspended, though they may take place through alternate methods where possible.

County spokesman Chris Sugidono said that the rules would be in effect 60 days from the mayor’s emergency proclamation, which was issued March 4.

Meanwhile, the state and county also imposed a number of travel restrictions: Hana Highway from Kaupakalua Road to Hana town, Piilani Highway from Ulupalakua to Kipahulu and Kahekili Highway from Waihee to Kahakuloa village will be open to local traffic only.

“On a typical day, thousands of rental cars drive the narrow Hana Highway and congregate at lookouts and parks,” said state Sen. J. Kalani English, whose district includes East Maui. “During this emergency, we need to keep the highway open for residents of East Maui, delivery trucks and first responders. We cannot have thousands of tourists from around the world causing traffic and entering closed parks, coming into contact with one another and our residents.”

All cases in the state so far have been related to travel. On Wednesday, the state Department of Health confirmed that the third case reported on Maui was a resident who tested positive after traveling to Colorado. DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the resident was isolating at home. She did not have information on the resident’s airline or travel dates, as officials were still investigating.

Maui’s second case, a visitor from Texas who was staying at the Westin Nanea Ocean Villas after testing positive, was moved Wednesday to an isolation site, Sugidono said.

Cases in Hawaii now total 16 after two more positive cases were announced Wednesday, both Oahu residents who traveled outside the state.

Closures continued Wednesday, with the county announcing that Kepaniwai Park would be closed until further notice for cleaning and maintenance. Sugidono confirmed the closure was related to COVID-19.

The Maui Humane Society said that it would close to the public starting today until further notice. Spaying and neutering services will be temporarily suspended, with scheduled appointments between Monday and mid-April getting waitlisted for a future appointment. Animal surrenders, adoptions and lost-and-found services will be available by appointment only. For more information or to make an appointment, call 877-3680, ext. 3 between 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit mauihumanesociety.org. Enforcement officers will still provide 24-hour service to high priority and emergency calls.

And, Maui Health announced that as of Wednesday, Maui Memorial Medical Center would limit visitation to one person per patient, and no children under the age of 14 would be allowed. Public entrances will be restricted to the main lobby and Emergency Room only.

Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital, both long-term care facilities with fragile elderly populations, will not allow any visitors except in compassionate care cases, Maui Health said. All visitors and employees are also being screened.

On Friday, the Maui County Council plans to hold an emergency meeting from 1:30 to 3 p.m. The council will discuss the mayor’s proposed $4 million budget amendment for the coronavirus response, as well as a proposed $2 million allocation for a worker relief program to help residents whose incomes may be affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. The Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership (HELP) would provide financial assistance to families for food, necessary personal items, housing, utility bills and medication.

The meeting will not be open to the public for safety reasons but will be televised on Akaku Channel 53 and livestreamed at mauicounty.us/videos. Oral testimony will not be accepted, but written testimony will be. It must be emailed to county.clerk@mauicounty.us or faxed to 270-7171 at least 24 hours prior to the meeting.

To view the full agenda, visit mauicounty.us/agendas.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.