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Maui County sees highest single-day COVID-19 spike

Mayor increases call to protect Hana, which logs first case

Despite county and state efforts to close off East Maui from outsiders, the rural community of Hana reported its first coronavirus case Friday morning, a female resident with travel history.

Meanwhile, Maui County saw its highest single-day spike of new confirmed coronavirus cases — nine on Friday. This included Molokai’s first case.

There were 34 new individuals with the virus Friday, mostly on Oahu, raising the state total to 319 cases.

Another elderly Oahu man died, the state’s third fatality linked to coronavirus, state officials announced Friday. Health officials said the man had been hospitalized in critical condition on life support for several weeks after returning from Washington state.

All Maui island ZIP code areas now show coronavirus cases, according to state Department of Heath’s color-coded maps Friday. This was not the case when the maps first came out earlier this week. West Maui and Wailuku remained the most saturated ZIP codes, with six to 10 cases in each area.

State Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, who reported the Hana case via Facebook, called the news alarming, especially since state and county officials had closed Hana Highway from Haiku to Hana and Piilani Highway on the backside to nonresidents March 18.

English, who represents the area and is a resident of Hana, said the closure was meant to safeguard the rural community.

The state has jurisdiction over Hana Highway and the county oversees Piilani Highway, the two access routes to East Maui. Road signs have been posted at entry points, and East Maui residents, along with local law enforcement, have monitored the areas.

The Hana resident with coronavirus is in quarantine, but officials did not disclose where or elaborate on her travel history. The state DOH is investigating the case and alerting anyone who may have been in contact with her.

The news troubled Hana native and resident Harolen Kaiwi, who said that it’s difficult for a tight-knit community to be in the dark with few details about the case.

“We don’t even know where they’re from, if they were a traveler, so we have no answers,” she said in a phone interview Friday evening. “We are still in the dark.”

Kaiwi said the small town has been rallying together to stay safe. “We’re keeping ourselves protected as best we can,” she said.

On Friday, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino doubled-down on warnings to protect Hana and other rural communities.

“I do not believe the Hana community can afford an epidemic; an outbreak would be very devastating to that community,” he said during a news conference. “Please, I ask again, all of you out there who are listening to this, please, Hana should remain shut down. We should not allow any traffic, except for our residents.”

He urged people against driving the back side of Kaupo via Piilani Highway. He also advised people not to venture to Lanai and Molokai and that only essential services and travel are allowed.

There is a 14-day quarantine for nonessential interisland travelers, including between the islands of Maui County, declared by Gov. David Ige this week.

Kaiwi said there has been a lot less traffic, with the exception of a few people from “the other side of the island, who think they can cruise around the island.”

She said tourists rarely are seen. Perhaps the only ones are visitors who were here before quarantine measures took effect and decided to “sit it out.”

She said Hana has vocal residents, called “the protectors,” who are always “looking out” and observing who’s coming through and what’s happening.

“The young gung-hos are always out on the road, making sure nonresidents don’t come through,” she said. “They are taking it a little more calmly now. Nobody really understood what this is all about at first. They just heard we had to protect Hana.

“Now, we just take it one day at a time. We will survive.”

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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