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Mayor pushes to reinstate interisland quarantine

He cites recent Lanai exposure by Oahu workers

MICHAEL VICTORINO – “I think we’re in trouble.”

In the wake of an incident where Oahu construction workers may have exposed Lanai residents to COVID-19, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino pushed again Wednesday to reinstate the 14-day interisland travel quarantine, adding that he is confident the state will respond soon.

Victorino initially submitted the request to Gov. David Ige on July 24, citing Oahu’s spike in cases. At the time, state leaders didn’t think the numbers warranted reinstating the interisland travel quarantine, Victorino said during Wednesday’s news conference.

“However that has all changed, and it has changed quite rapidly,” Victorino said. “I believe we will be hearing back from the governor in the next day or so. He will set something up very shortly. I’m confident of that.”

Meanwhile, county officials Wednesday discussed trends showing that state hospitals may be overwhelmed by the end of the month amid the recent Oahu surge. The state’s COVID-19 numbers have been triple digits for nearly a week with the vast majority on Oahu.

“Based on our current rate of infection and trends, our state’s health care systems will likely be overwhelmed, and we would need about three times the number of hospital beds,” said county Managing Director Sandy Baz at the news conference. “Thankfully, hospitals statewide have the ability to expand capacity and services with the assistance of the counties and Hawaii National Guard.”

SANDY BAZ – County managing director

There were no COVID-19 cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center as of Wednesday afternoon, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Ige imposed the statewide interisland travel quarantine April 1 and lifted it June 16.

“As of right now, we have 1,300 active cases throughout the state with the vast majority on Oahu,” Victorino said. “However, there is potential to impact Maui County and the case in point that I just mentioned about the two construction workers is a classic example.”

Two construction workers from Oahu who were on Lanai — the only populated island in the county without documented cases of COVID-19 — last week have tested positive for COVID-19, health officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon. As a result, there are Lanai residents in quarantine for possible exposure. State and county officials declined to say how many residents are affected.

Victorino said that anxiety is high on Lanai after the recent incident. He encouraged residents to get tested if they are concerned and added that Pulama Lana’i, the company that manages and oversees landowner Larry Ellison’s operations on the island, is offering additional testing.

More than 200 people attended a Zoom meeting Wednesday night to discuss COVID-19 concerns on Lanai with state Department of Health Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang and public health nursing supervisor Heidi Taogoshi.

Pang and Taogoshi talked about COVID-19 and measures to stay protected. However, they declined to give specifics on the construction worker incident, including how many people have been quarantined, citing health privacy laws.

Taogoshi said that close contacts, those within 6 feet or less and with about 15 minutes of contact, among other qualifiers, are being contacted by state health officials.

“You would have been called if you were determined to be a close contact,” Taogoshi said during the meeting.

During the news conference, Victorino said that he was told by Pulama Lana’i that there was “very little contact,” but he deferred to state health officials.

Also during the news conference, Victorino said he is asking the governor to keep Maui County in the Act with Care phase, where businesses and services currently open would not be shut down.

Oahu is looking at changing its status from Act with Care to Stay at Home, Victorino noted.

The mayor urged residents to refrain from traveling, even to Oahu, unless it’s essential.

“I have renewed my request to the governor once again to reinstate the 14-day quarantine for interisland travel,” he said. “I think the time has risen. I said this two and a half weeks ago, and we’ve let it go to this point. And we look at what’s happening around us.

“I think we’re in trouble.”

State health officials reported 173 new COVID-19 cases — all on Oahu — on Wednesday. Oahu’s total is 2,394 cases since tracking began; of those cases, 1,104 have been released from isolation.

Due to updated information Wednesday, one case was removed from Maui County’s total, dropping it to 177 overall (139 of whom have been released from isolation). Two of the cases are on Molokai.

Hawaii island remained at 122 (115 released from isolation), and Kauai stayed at 47 (44 released from isolation). There have been 23 residents diagnosed out of state.

The state has logged 2,591 cases of COVID-19 since tracking began Feb. 28. Of those cases, 214 or 8 percent have required hospitalization and there have been 27 fatalities, including six on Maui.

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

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