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Mayor keen on more testing for trans-Pacific visitors

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino would “prefer” trans-Pacific visitors take a second COVID-19 test upon arrival even after testing negative for the virus prior to making the trip to Maui County. 

“Many of us mayors would prefer a second test, especially for trans-Pacific arrivals,” Victorino said in response to a media question during his news conference Wednesday afternoon. 

Things have not been finalized yet with the state’s pre-travel testing program for trans-Pacific visitors, he said. The program, scheduled to begin Oct. 15, will allow trans-Pacific visitors to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine with a negative test within 72-hours prior to arriving in Hawaii.

Victorino said trans-Pacific visitors could stay at hotels and resorts and get a second test with results in 24-hours if possible. Experts have said that two tests done in a six-day window will show “more than likely if you have it,” he said.

“There is a little more concern” about how a pre-testing program would work for interisland travel, Victorino said. People travel interisland for short periods, such as one day for business or a several day vacation.

After the news conference, county spokesman Chris Sugidono explained that there may not be enough time between interisland trips to take a COVID-19 test and receive results.

This contradicts comments the mayor made Monday that a pre-travel testing program for interisland travelers “could be the prelude” for trans-Pacific flyers.

Gov. David Ige on Wednesday opened the door to a pre-testing option for Neighbor Island travel in his 13th supplementary emergency proclamation. The interisland quarantine for travelers arriving in all counties, except Honolulu, remains in place, but the proclamation “empowers” the counties to adopt a negative test exception process for travelers to bypass quarantine.

The proclamation also extends the prohibition on evictions for nonpayment of rent until Oct. 31 and the expiration dates of expired/expiring state IDs and driver’s licenses until Oct. 31.

In other COVID-19-related developments, Victorino asked that parents and guardians taking their children to the park and sitting on the side or on benches to wear masks because they are in public places. He said the county has received complaints about people not wearing masks in parks.

“I’m concerned the lack of wearing masks, (we) could have another outbreak here in Maui County,” he said, adding that he has asked police to step up enforcement.

Victorino also offered an update on the work of the MauiCARES Task Force. The group made up of more than 30 industry leaders identified areas of need and economic recovery opportunities for use of federal CARES Act funds. The group, which met from July 8 to Aug. 1, made recommendations to the mayor.

The county received $67 million in CARES Act funding through the state and has spent or encumbered $37 million. Another $20 million includes funding recommendations from the task force.

The group’s recommendations were broken into two rounds of funding. The first round contained $5.2 million for the Adaptability Fund, which assists businesses and nonprofits with grants to reopen safely, and $1.5 million for the HealthCARES Hui partnership to create health care jobs and expand services for kupuna and families, a news release said.

The second round of funding included allocations to various community needs through county partnerships and nonprofits. The details are still being determined.

Task force highlights include:

• Continuation of the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership (HELP) Program, offering financial assistance for residents for necessities including essential bills and food.

• Additional funding to Maui Food Bank, Feed My Sheep and Salvation Army to purchase locally grown food and shelf stable products for needy residents.

• Developing an internship program for paid-student internships to support businesses and nonprofits upgrade their communication, marketing and engagement strategies, which can develop a new skilled workforce through supervised on-the-job training.

• Providing temporary employment to residents who lost jobs due to COVID-19 on environmental efforts, such as conservation/restoration work and improving community infrastructure.

• Supporting kupuna through virtual education and financial subsidies for personal care and to minimize isolation concerns.

• Funds supporting local entertainers and artists to perform and livestream.

• Continuation of the Farm Purchase Program, buying food from local farmers and ranchers and giving the food to those in need.

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

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