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Mayor is asking residents to limit interisland travel

Essential business only, he urges

As COVID-19 cases set daily records on Oahu along with an uptick on Maui, Mayor Michael Victorino is advising Maui County residents to postpone interisland leisure travel at this time and only fly between islands for essential business.

“We’re asking residents to consider postponing leisure interisland travel at this time, and travel interisland only for essential business, such as medical care,” Victorino said in an email response to questions from The Maui News on Monday.

His comments came on the heels of a dozen new cases on Maui over the weekend and the state setting another single-day record Saturday, with 73 new cases, mostly on Oahu.

Monday brought fewer statewide cases, 28, all on Oahu. State Department of Health officials said that the Monday number was lower because the state lab was closed Sunday due to Hurricane Douglas and private labs did not conduct late work shifts.

Hawaii experienced three consecutive record days of new COVID-19 cases, the vast majority on Oahu.

On Monday at his news conference Victorino said that he and Gov. David Ige continue to discuss the mayor’s request to reinstate the 14-day interisland quarantine. Victorino sent Ige a letter with the request last week as cases on Oahu were rising.

“No decision has been made . . . discussions are ongoing,” Victorino said.

Ige’s press secretary Jodi Leong said Monday afternoon that Ige has received the request to have fliers quarantine for 14 days at home and is considering it.

If another interisland quarantine is imposed, Victorino acknowledged that it would be a blow to businesses.

“I believe it will hurt our businesses (that) just started to open up to interisland travel. I think it will hurt definitely,” Victorino said at the afternoon news conference.

But if case numbers continue to rise, “do we have choices?” he asked.

He also was asked if he felt that interisland travel was spreading the virus. Victorino responded by saying that there are “many factors” in the spreading of the virus, including at gyms, yoga classes, bars and restaurants, like on Oahu. Maui has not seen those challenges yet, he added.

As for the Sept. 1 reopening of transpacific travel without quarantine, Victorino said “it’s still early to make a determination in that matter.” He noted that not only is the state seeing an uptick but so is the Mainland, including California, where many of the state’s visitors come from.

“If I was a guessing man, I probably say no,” he later added. “Sept. 1 will not open up to transpacific flights.”

There is also concern over the number of Maui’s recently reported cases.

“On Maui, there has been an alarming uptick in cases with a dozen over the weekend. Even more alarming are reports of gatherings of hundreds of people on Maui recently in which they were not wearing face masks or practicing physical distancing,” Victorino told The Maui News.

The mayor did not address specifics about where the gatherings were. On social media, there have been posts showing large gatherings at beaches.

“These gatherings have been indoors and outdoors, including celebrations and other gatherings,” he said. “We expect more positive cases on Maui because the virus can spread very quickly, even from people who are asymptomatic.”

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said that Maui’s uptick is associated with people who reported being ill and apparently attending a number of gatherings where people did not wear masks or social distance.

As for specifics on what types of gatherings were concerning to health officials, Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui district health officer, said that there were several indoor and outdoor parties that may have been planned, semi-planned and impromptu; classes; and a wide range of situations that could be considered gatherings.

“We also have reports that these gatherings did not strictly respect masking or social distancing guidance,” Pang said.

On Oahu, the state Department of Health on Monday was asking anyone who may have patronized two Honolulu bars to step forward and contact their physicians for follow-up. 

The two bars are Brix & Bones at 1217 Hopaka St. and Arena 808 at 1020 Keeaumoku St.; the time-period being investigated is July 16 to 26. So far five cases of COVID-19 are associated with exposure to the virus at these establishments. In addition, as many as seven positive cases are potentially associated with these clusters, the DOH said in a news release.

Despite the bar cluster on Oahu, Victorino said that “we are not closing businesses at this time.”

“However, we will need to reevaluate that if some people refuse to follow safety measures, such as wearing face masks, observing social distancing and frequent hand washing,” he continued.

The mayor also is asking the state Department of Education to delay the opening of public schools, currently set for Aug. 4, for “another few weeks.” This would allow more time for preparation and training.

Victorino knows the DOE is working hard to open schools and wasn’t telling anyone what to do (public schools are a state function). He said he had not discussed school opening with the governor, but sent a letter to his office last week citing community concerns.

In other developments:

• Another produce distribution will be held on Lanai from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday or until supplies run out for those impacted by COVID-19. The distribution will be in the county parking lot between the county gym and school cafeteria and conducted via drive-thru. There will be no walk-ups; produce will be placed in the vehicle trunk or rear cargo area. Motorists are asked to wear face masks.

• Drive-thru COVID-19 testing will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at the Lahaina Aquatic Center. It will be administered by Minit Medical Urgent Care.

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

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