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Ige asked to ease Lanai virus rules on Thursday

After nearly two weeks, Lanai may be opening up Thursday if Gov. David Ige approves the move from stay-at-home to safer-at-home status following an outbreak of COVID-19 on the island.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, during a news conference Monday afternoon, said he requested that Ige move the island to the safer-at-home level beginning 12:01 a.m. Thursday through Nov. 30.

This would allow people to leave their homes or places of lodging for medical reasons and to obtain food and supplies; engage in outdoor activities, such as walking, ocean sports and hiking; care for family members, minors or those with disabilities; and work at an essential business or government function.

Victorino noted that Maui County has gone four consecutive days without new cases.

“We are moving in the right direction, but I don’t want the Lanaians to think everything is fine, you can go about your business as if nothing has happened,” Victorino said. “We still have cases, and we are still looking at results.”

The mayor also has made a request to the governor that neck gaiters consisting of at least two layers of fabric or worn doubled-over across the nose and mouth be approved as masks and facial coverings starting Thursday, county Managing Director Sandy Baz said after the news conference.

Masks are mandated countywide when entering the public. Victorino and other state and county officials have been asking Ige to order a uniform statewide mask mandate, but an announcement has yet to come.

Currently, Maui County masks and facial coverings must completely cover the nose and mouth; have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric; and fit snugly against the sides of the face without gaps. Pleated, multilayer, disposable masks are allowed, but gaiters and bandannas are restricted.

On Lanai, COVID-19 hit the rural island for the first time late last month, going from no cases to nearly 100 in a week’s time.

Mass testing and contact tracing measures were implemented, along with a stay-at-home mandate that began Oct. 27. The order shut down nonessential businesses and forced people to stay home except for essential activities.

“We’ve been boxing in COVID,” Baz said at the news conference. “It’s really a matter of getting out there, addressing it with a lot of testing, contact tracing and restricting the amount of activities so there is a way to stop the spread.”

“It looks like it worked,” he added. “But we want to still be cautious.”

Total Lanai cases now stand at 107, Victorino said at the news conference, adding that two of those cases soon will be confirmed by the state Department of Health.

If Lanai is upgraded to a safer-at-home order, people are still encouraged to stay at home, especially if they are health compromised or living with someone compromised, but they will be no longer required to do so, according to county officials.

“They’re no longer required to stay at home, we are just advising they should stay at home,” Baz said.

He said that the pre-travel testing program will not be allowed yet for Lanai. Travelers to and from Lanai are required to quarantine, though there are exemptions for essential work and medical purposes.

The county has four levels for COVID-19 suppression and management based on daily case counts and virus control over a seven-day rolling average. The levels include recovery (minimal disruption); act with care (minor disruption); safer at home (moderate disruption) and stay at home (major disruption).

The state Department of Education reported one new COVID-19 case in the Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai Complex Area last week. The case, reported on Nov. 3, was on Lanai, the DOE said Monday.

The department was reporting 32 students and no staff with COVID-19 at Lanai High & Elementary School as of Oct. 30.

In other COVID-19 news:

• The Maui Police Department’s task force for mask enforcement issued 202 citations from Oct. 30 to Sunday, said Lt. Audra Sellers on Monday. Out of that total, 159 residents were cited along with 43 visitors. The task force and campaign began on Nov. 1 and runs through Sunday or longer, Sellers said. 

• Free drive-thru COVID-19 testing will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in the upper parking lot of the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani. Anyone can get tested and no insurance is required. Minit Medical is administering the program sponsored by the county. Participants must preregister at www.minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19. For more information, call (808) 667-6161, ext: 7.

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

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