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County retail businesses allowed to open Monday

Mayor says ‘miscommunication’ with Ige cleared up

Lee Bear & Co. in Kahului is gearing up for its second busiest time of the year with graduation season, even if commencements will be virtual this year. Christmas is the busiest. Lee Bear photo

Maui County will allow reopening of retail stores, including those in shopping malls, on Monday, said Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino on Wednesday, clearing up some “miscommunication” over a major sign in the reopening of the county in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victorino’s announcement came a day after Gov. David Ige said he was signing his 7th Supplemental Emergency Proclamation, which allows for more retail businesses, including malls, to reopen today. When the proclamation was finally released Wednesday night by the governor, it noted that Maui County was not reopening retail outlets and malls.

At his news conference Wednesday afternoon, Victorino explained that it was “miscommunication” and that the county was not ready at that time to reopen more businesses.

“It has been cleared up,” Victorino said, adding that county and state officials communicated Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

He thanked Ige for his understanding and said “he was very apologetic to us and the mistakes that were made.” Victorino said better communication between Ige and himself could eliminate future issues.

The food court at Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center had tables and chairs removed in this photo taken March 19. Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino will allow reopening of retail businesses but food courts remain closed and eateries will continue to be takeout only. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

Earlier Wednesday, Ige also acknowledged some confusion in his first major step in reopening the economy and his “safer at home phase.” He said he recognizes that “the counties should have the flexibility to adjust plans to meet their unique needs of their community. I fully support the decision of Mayor (Kirk) Caldwell and Mayor Victorino.”

Caldwell, Honolulu’s mayor, will allow retail businesses to reopen May 15.

“Mayors are free to take action in any of those special areas they choose to,” Ige said. “We all recognize that from the public perspective the more we can be aligned explicitly the easier it is for the public and all of us.”

The governor said he and the mayors “have committed to being consistent and in alignment to the best that we can.”

“We all acknowledge we have an obligation as elected chief executive of our various government entities, their first priority will be focused on the community that they serve,” Ige said. “We recognize that every county is different and every county has different needs that the mayors need to be able to respond to.”

A sign on Lee Bear & Co.’s door in Kahului signals a new normal. Having customers come into the store eliminates extra deliveries and allows them to see and choose their products, rather than just viewing them on social media during the pandemic, said owner Randi Lee Visitacion. Lee Bear photo

The governor said he and the mayors meet three times a week to discuss matters, including the appropriate reopening of the economy. They will continue to have discussions and find “different mechanisms to work better together.”

Businesses allowed to reopen in Maui County on Monday include:

• Retail stores and repair services.

• Retail stores within shopping malls.

• Car dealerships, by appointment. Previously, companies only were allowed to handle critical situations.

• Real estate services, by appointment. As with car dealerships, only critical situations could be dealt with previously.

County Managing Director Sandy Baz said that all open businesses and services must establish physical distancing of 6 feet or more, sanitizing and thorough cleaning protocols and capacity limits.

The county also is encouraging businesses to work to reduce in-person contacts, if possible, by employing access by appointment only and delivery or pickup services.

Face coverings must be worn by all employees and customers, and employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 should be sent home as soon as possible, the county said.

Baz emphasized that the county was not forcing retailers to open and that residents should not be upset if a business does not reopen Monday. Some businesses may need time to prepare to reopen.

“We gave them the weekend to do that, (but) if they take more time please allow them to do that,” Baz said.

Even though malls may be open, food courts only can do takeout with no seating, Baz said. Arcades, game rooms, beauty salons and theaters remain closed.

Play and entertainment areas in malls also will stay closed.

Maintaining social distancing was the key in deciding how and whether to open businesses, Baz said.

For the same reason, Ige said he was not opening up beaches for sunbathing or relaxing; beaches only are open for exercise.

Even while lifting restrictions, Ige said people should return home right after shopping. “Although I hope people will patronize our newly reopened businesses and get outside to exercise, please remember it’s safer to be at home,” he said.

Hawaii had one new COVID-19 case, which was on Oahu, as of noon Wednesday. Hawaii’s total now is 626 cases.

Oahu has 405 cases. Maui County’s cases remain at 116, which includes two cases on Molokai and none on Lanai. One Lanai resident contracted the virus at Maui Memorial Medical Center and remains on Maui.

Hawaii County’s total was 74 cases and Kauai County’s, 21 cases. There have been 10 Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state.

Hawaii’s death total remains at 17 — six on Maui and 11 on Oahu — and 558 people have been released from isolation.

Ige’s 7th Supplementary Proclamation can be found at governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2005024-ATG_Seventh-Supplementary-Proclamation-for-COVID-19-distribution-signed-1.pdf.

Maui County information can be found at mauicounty.gov.

In other news:

• Maui County will hold a food drive for Central Maui residents in need beginning at 10 a.m. today at the War Memorial Gym parking lot. About 500 bags of food will be available.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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