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Lanai COVID-19 total tops 60 cases

Stay-at-home order, travel restrictions may come Tuesday

MICHAEL VICTORINO — Seeking shutdown order

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino is expecting to implement a stay-at-home order and travel restrictions for Lanai beginning Tuesday as the island’s COVID-19 case count ballooned to 65 Friday.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Victorino said he made his final decision based on the day’s COVID-19 numbers. The mayor said he is awaiting confirmation from Gov. David Ige, who said he would get back to him this weekend.

The county also is seeking the authority to make these types of decisions without Ige’s approval in the future, he said.

Victorino said he was pretty sure that the stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions would go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“I was on Lanai this morning. There are more cases, we see ’em coming,” Victorino said.

LYNN DECOITE — Everyone on Lanai concerned

The spike in cases from none to 65 this week is worrisome because the rural island does not have a health care infrastructure able to treat large numbers of COVID-19 cases, health officials have said.

Tracy Dallarda, a spokeswoman for Maui Health System, which operates Lana’i Community Hospital, said Friday that so far all cases “have been mild and have not required hospitalization, but we are ready to act if that were to change.”

If Lanai has a critical patient, the person will be airlifted to Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku for specialized care, which is the normal practice, she said.

All Lanai hospital employees and long term care residents have been tested and were all negative this week. Another test was scheduled for Friday with tests done in two-week cycles, she said.

Victorino said more testing capability is being put in place and isolation and treatment of positive patients are being provided. He said Lanai health providers told him Friday that “they had what they needed.”

The county is seeking to restrict travel to and from Lanai to only essential workers with medical purposes. All other travelers will need to quarantine for 14 days, a county news release said.

Maui County spokesman Chris Sugidono said after the news conference that the stay-at-home order would require nonessential workers on Lanai to remain at home. Entities offering essential services, such as grocery stores and medical facilities, will be open.

Currently, the county is asking residents and visitors on Lanai to voluntarily shelter in place now and to limit outings to food or medical visits.

Pine Isle Market on Lanai was abuzz with customers Friday afternoon. Corie Honda, whose family owns the market, said the large crowd may be a sign of panic, especially with the voluntary shelter-in-place order.

While most residents were wearing masks, Honda has noticed more folks wearing masks since the announcement of the first cases on Lanai this week.

Beginning next week, market hours will be reduced, Honda said.

“I want to take care of my employees so they feel safe,” Honda said of the reduced hours while noting that the market will be open as an essential business.

At Lanai High & Elementary School, Principal Elton Kinoshita said Friday in a letter to parents that there were 15 students with COVID-19. No staff members had tested positive.

Affected areas of the campus will be closed for the next two weeks, he said. If professional cleaning and sanitization is needed, the school will work with the state Department of Education’s COVID-19 response team to coordinate the effort.

The school, which had some face-to-face instruction, especially in the lower grades, had transitioned to full-distance learning starting Thursday, after the announcement of the first COVID-19 cases on the island and before the discovery of student cases.

The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele and Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort at Koele remain open but Victorino said Pulama Lana’i, the owner of the hotels, has agreed not to bring in new guests for the time being.

This will allow current guests to wrap up their vacations or make plans to leave the island, the mayor said at his news conference. Pulama Lana’i is the operating arm of billionaire Larry Ellison, who owns most of the island

“They agreed to help us in that,” Victorino said.

A spokeswoman for Four Seasons Resort Lanai did not answer a question about the occupancy of the resorts. Lori Holland said Friday that the resort currently was operational and welcoming guests.

“We continue to work alongside local authorities and third-party experts to closely monitor the reports of the COVID-19 environment, to best evaluate and respond to any change in the current situation,” Holland said.

There has been a complete and comprehensive disinfection of the properties in cooperation with public health authorities and in accordance with its health and safety protocols. The resort is taking additional steps, including daily temperature checks of staff, mandatory mask usage by staff and guests, temperature screenings for anyone entering the property and increased cleaning and sanitization of all areas, Holland said.

“I know everyone on Lanai is concerned,” said state Rep. Lynn DeCoite, whose district includes Lanai, on Friday. “The community has been so vigilant and protective, the news of these cases comes as a big blow and reality check that we cannot let our guard down.”

She said she will continue to work with state and county government officials to ensure residents have the resources they need.

“Everyone is working to keep the community safe and to address this situation with care and compassion in a timely manner,” she said.

On Friday, there were four crews, two from Oahu and two from Maui, conducting sanitization efforts in Lanai town, Victorino said.

And 700 people had signed up to get tested at today’s drive-thru event, set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Old Dole administration building, Victorino said, noting that hours have been extended.

Reservations are required by calling the Straub Medical Center-Lanai Clinic at (808) 565-6423 or the Lanai Community Health Center at (808) 565-6919. Testing also is available Monday through Saturday at the clinic and health center.

As some have questioned why the stay-at-home orders have not come sooner, Victorino explained that advance notice is needed to allow workers and visitors, including those who have relatives on Lanai, time to finish what they needed to do and return home.

While the mayor was reporting the positive case count at 65 Friday, the Health Department reported a lower number, 49. Victorino said he would speak with the Health Department to help clear up the confusion.

The Health Department said it has identified a couple of large social gatherings “that have likely contributed to this community outbreak.” Some cases are attributed to household transmission. One case had a history of travel to Oahu, but there is no clear tie to the other cases.

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

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