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Mayor: Maui in ‘good place’ for pre-travel testing

Maui County is in “a good place” to begin welcoming back more visitors when the pre-travel testing program launches Oct. 15 for trans-Pacific flyers, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Friday.

To prepare for a possible influx of visitors, Victorino said that the county will be prepping the hotels with new safety protocols, making sure hospitality and business workers feel safe and secure, having COVID-19 testing more readily available, controlling community spread, ensuring there is no shortage in emergency services, and getting the contact tracing team ready.

“I feel confident that we have things in place,” the mayor said. “Is it 100 percent fail-safe? I wish I could yes, but at this point we’re in a good place to start looking at the reopening — carefully, slowly, methodically — with the safety and well-being of all a concern.”

The pre-travel testing program, which allows out-of-state visitors who test negative for COVID-19 to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine, was approved Wednesday by Gov. David Ige. Earlier this week, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami announced that his county had received approval to launch a “resort bubble” program, allowing quarantined visitors to leave their hotel rooms but stay on property and use the resort’s amenities while wearing a monitoring bracelet.

Maui County has been mulling a similar program, Victorino said, adding that he is working on getting a final assessment by the end of the month on whether a resort bubble “is possible.”

“We’re looking at interisland travel and how that can work, getting back to having a little more modified quarantine for interisland travel so that we can welcome back our Neighbor Island guests,” he said. “But right now, as far as what we’re having to do, is to make sure whatever we put together, it will work, and work accurately.”

Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said that the Valley Isle will eventually have to reopen to full capacity with schools, gyms, beaches and parks, as well as the economy to tourists from the Mainland.

But when the openings do occur, “we will have more and more cases,” he said.

“You can’t help but have more cases, and the cases are going to spread, maybe from visitors, quickly to our community,” Pang said. “This thing spreads quicker than we thought, and that will be quite alarming, but we will respond as best we can, use mitigation — those five Ws — and we will respond as best we can.”

His five Ws are:

• Wear your mask.

• Watch your physical distancing, at least 6 but preferably 10 feet of separation.

• Wash your hands.

• Wellness, don’t go out in public if ill.

• Wipe down and clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

• Wide open spaces, away from other people, are best.

Pang said that health care officials will be “testing, finding the cases, contact tracing.”

“We’re going to shut down what we can,” he said. “The first step is testing.”

In other COVID-19 developments:

• The state Department of Education reported one employee in the Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai Area Complex tested positive for COVID-19 in a report covering Sept. 12 to Friday. The community has been notified and facilities disinfected. No more specific information was available.

• Drive-thru COVID-19 testing is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at the Lahaina Aquatic Center. The center will be closed all day for testing and reopen again at 2 p.m.

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

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