Mayor revises terms for reclosing of Maui
South Maui bars test staff, reopen after COVID-19 exposure
Days after warning that Maui County closures may ensue if COVID-19 cases average five to seven a day, Mayor Michael Victorino on Wednesday softened his approach, pointing instead to “double-digit” average daily case counts as a trigger for rollbacks.
Meanwhile, state Department of Health Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said Wednesday that an anticipated jump in Maui cases, likely to be released today by the state, is a backlog of five days due to a machine installation issue. During that time, Maui was actually averaging about three or four cases per day instead of the smaller totals reported by the state.
With Oahu’s triple-digit surge over the past several weeks, state and city leaders have reinstated restrictions on using beaches and parks and clamped down on certain businesses and activities.
About the possibility of reclosing portions of Maui County, Victorino said Wednesday that decision-making would depend on several factors, including the number of increased cases over a consistent period of time, along with feedback from health and business officials.
“So let’s use this example: If we had seven days of double-digit increases on Maui, so 10, 11, 10, nine, 10; that’s an average of 10 across the board,” he said in response to a question from The Maui News at his news conference. “I would then look at where it’s coming from and start to look if I have to close certain segments of our communities.”
On Monday, Victorino said that he does not want to close down like Oahu, but if cases don’t drop over the next week or so and the county is “averaging five to seven cases per day over that period of time, I will start considering reclosing or stepping back our reopening of Maui County.”
The mayor said Monday that he anticipated a jump in new COVID-19 cases for the county. On Wednesday, Pang offered an explanation for the coming increase, saying Maui’s actual numbers have been held up over the last five days because a new machine for testing had to be verified by the state.
“When Honolulu saw our machine was good, they were going to release all that we saw in the last five days,” Pang said. “You may see this huge bump. We were told all along by Honolulu to act on what our machine saw.”
Pang said that health officials on Maui have been “hustling and tracing” cases, most of which include travel to or from Oahu. Some cases have come from the Mainland while others are “a few local cases that we can’t quite piece together yet.”
On Wednesday, the mayor lauded Kihei Kalama Village bars and restaurants for recently shutting down over possible exposure to a COVID-19 patron. He thanked businesses that follow state and county reopening rules and take employee and community health seriously.
“Many of you have been doing a great job,” he said. “This is why I have not shut down Maui like they did in Oahu, partly because we haven’t had big numbers. But like Dr. Pang said, they’re out there, it’s just that our system hasn’t brought them out.”
About 10 South Maui bars and restaurants temporarily closed Monday as a precautionary measure after possible or confirmed exposure to a COVID-19-positive patron, according to business officials.
“Mahalo to the businesses in the Kihei Kalama Village for the temporary closing down to protect their employees and our residents,” Victorino said. “There was one active case that was found, and they immediately self-quarantined. They closed down everything, and they’ve been cleaning up. I really appreciate that.”
Seven bars and restaurants in Kihei Kalama Village, along with Diamonds Ice Bar and Grill, Fred’s Mexican Cafe and Moose McGillycuddy’s, closed Monday for extra cleaning, possible employee testing and to find out more information on the incident, business announcements said.
Some had reopened by Wednesday after rapid testing found that employees were free from the virus, according to Mikhail Tassi, general manager of South Shore Tiki Lounge in Kihei Kalama Village. His restaurant reopened Wednesday.
The Kihei Kalama Village Bar Association, which includes the seven village bar establishments Kahale’s Bar, South Shore Tiki Lounge, Dog and Duck, Vibe Bar Maui, Haui’s Life’s a Beach, Ohana Bar and Grill and Lava Rock Cafe, said that each establishment has been cleaned and sanitized, and tests have been coordinated for employees.
“A majority of employees have not had direct exposure to coronavirus to their knowledge but were tested as a precaution,” an association statement said. “To date, we’re happy to report no employee has tested positive. Employees waiting to be tested to ensure the recommended wait time for an accurate test will return to work when cleared. Establishments with employees that have tested negative will begin to reopen Wednesday.”
Tassi said it was nice that South Maui bars and restaurants, including ones outside the association, were on the same page when it came to COVID-19 response efforts.
“Everyone as a business owner has their needs and wants, but everyone was on board,” he said. “It went as smoothly as possible. Now, we are trying to see how we can avoid this in the future.”
The association thanked patrons for their support and asked for continued safe practices when returning.
“Please keep our staff and fellow patrons safe by wearing your mask, social distancing, and not coming in with symptoms or when you should be quarantining,” the statement said.
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.