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Mayor: Only 30 to 35% of businesses have reopened

‘We’re not at a very good state’ right now, says Victorino

Maui County’s recovering economy is “not at a very good state” — with only about a third of businesses reopened since the COVID-19 pandemic — but Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said county officials continue to implement strategies to keep the island on a safe trajectory toward a new normal.

Some local businesses have opened part time or full time with reduced and modified services, while others struggle to reopen. Some businesses have permanently closed, adding to the ranks of unemployed residents.

“When you really look at the total package where we were pre-COVID-19 to today, we’re still probably about 30 to 35 percent of reopened businesses,” Victorino said during a media update Monday. “Some businesses have opened more than others, but overall, we’re not at a very good state.”

“We have so many initiatives right now,” he added. “We’re moving methodically and systematically to reopen Maui County.”

Among those initiatives is the Micro Business Loan Program, which received a $750,000 infusion from the county. The initial $1 million was exhausted in a month and a half after funding 60 businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, art galleries and other businesses. The program offers five-year zero-interest loans of $7,500 to $15,000 and seven-year loans of $15,001 to $25,000. The Chamber of Commerce currently has 52 applications to process.

“I believe that we’re not anywhere near where we need to be, but we’re getting there,” Victorino said. “I think if we all shop local, buy local and help our local businesses, we’ll get better off in the not-so-distant future.”

When it comes to reopening the economy, Victorino said that he’s concerned about Oahu’s double-digit daily increases in COVID-19 cases and Kauai’s “big spike” over the weekend (seven cases after 10 weeks of no new cases) but content with the Valley Isle’s flattened curve. Maui County logged two new cases over the weekend to bring its total to 122 — 120 on Maui and two on Molokai with none on Lanai.

“These are the things that are concerning outside of Maui County, and with the county being opened up to interisland travel, that’s also concerning,” he said. “But you know, I think it’s up to us, you the public, we the officials, to work together, to make sure we do the proper hygiene, and as I said, wearing your mask, keeping as much physical distancing as possible, doing what is right.”

Interisland travel resumed without a mandatory 14-day quarantine last week. On Sunday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported 1,497 people arriving from out of state. During this same time last year, approximately 35,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily.

A total of 79 flew into Maui on Sunday, including 40 returning residents and 23 visitors.

Opening the state to transpacific travel without quarantine and an international “travel bubble” between designated countries with low infection rates and high rules compliance are other initiatives that Gov. David Ige and Victorino are mulling.

“I’m considering it, but it has to be done safely,” Victorino said. “We need to know that people are testing before they come in. I’m kind of really adamant about that because when you’re COVID-free when you get here, the likelihood of you getting it and spreading it is slim to none.”

During the media update, Dr. Michael Jackowitz of Minit Medical Urgent Care offered more information on drive-thru diagnostic and antibody testing that the clinic is hosting Wednesday to Friday in West, South and Central Maui. Antibody tests are not covered by insurance; those who receive this test will get a $45 bill from Clinic Labs of Hawaii.

Testing will be available:

• Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lahaina Aquatic Center. The pool will be closed all day, but the Lahaina Recreational Park will be open to the public from 2 to 7 p.m. after the drive-thru testing.

• Thursday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the South Maui Community Park. The park will reopen from 2 to 7 p.m. to the public.

• Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Keopuolani Park. The park will be open 3 to 7 p.m. to the public.

In other developments:

• Maui County offices, including Kalana O Maui in Wailuku, opened Monday for normal business hours, 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, except holidays. The eighth floor remains closed.

• The Maui Wifi Bus launches Wednesday for a two-week trial in East Maui to offer internet services to rural areas. The bus is fitted with antennas that can reach up to 500 feet. The Maui Wifi Bus will run 8 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday at Hana Bay. For more information, call 270-7511 or email public.transit@mauicounty.gov.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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