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Officials say golf tourney followed COVID rules

Some questioned Shane Victorino’s charity event in Wailea

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino putts on the 15th green as son Shane Victorino (left) and James Hall look on during the 13th annual Shane Victorino Celebrity Dinner and Golf Classic on Saturday. Some residents have raised questions about holding the event during the pandemic, though organizers say precautions were taken. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Retired Major League Baseball player and Maui boy Shane Victorino said that a golf tournament and dinner benefit he hosted over the weekend followed COVID-19 protocols, as some on social media questioned why the mayor’s son was holding a large event during the pandemic.

“Rest assured: We will never do anything to jeopardize our community, so the protocols and all the things and the rules had to be followed,” Victorino said Saturday. “And here we are — it’s another great year, another successful story.”

The 13th annual Shane Victorino Celebrity Dinner & Golf Classic at the Wailea Golf Club drew an estimated 80 golfers on Saturday, though visibly absent were the opening and closing ceremonies due to COVID-19.

Victorino said that things were “up in the air” with the tournament due to the pandemic. But the former pro outfielder said that he pushed on, as the events gives “back to help Maui County where I grew up” and helps the less fortunate.

“That’s ultimately why I continued,” he said.

“Obviously 13 was up in the air with all this. But my team and I, we worked on the protocols and everything we had to implement that this goes smoothly,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the tournament could not be reached for further comment on Monday.

Some in the community questioned the gathering, especially since Victorino is the son of Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, who is urging people this holiday season to not gather if possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Sam Small, executive director of Maui Causes, who has been critical of Mayor Victorino’s handling of the pandemic, said on Monday that he couldn’t find any information in the charity event details on what protocols were going to be enforced.

“If there were any, wouldn’t participants need to know what was expected of them?” Small asked.

He also questioned the seating at the event’s dinner and how intermixed parties would be handled.

Golfing is still allowed during the pandemic; courses have been open since May with social distancing and other restrictions. However, large events often have been discouraged or heavily restricted. A four-day legislative conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani last week that reportedly brought in more than 100 people from four states, including Washington state and California, drew attention locally and nationally because of its size and the fact that lawmakers were coming from states asking their residents not to travel due to rising COVID-19 cases.

However, county officials said that the charity golf tournament — which also included dinner and a silent auction — complied with rules and took steps to reduce exposure. Mayor Victorino explained during his news conference Monday afternoon that the dinner was held outdoors on the lanai instead of the ballroom.

“I think everyone had a great time and tried to physical distance and wear a mask, when they were not eating or drinking,” he said.

He added that similar events have occurred in the past following protocols.

Shane Victorino told The Maui News in an interview Saturday that figuring out the dinner “was very challenging.”

“I’m used to having 350-plus, but you know they implemented whatever number the county had in store, that’s what we were going to obviously stick to,” he said. “So, I mean, obviously having constant communication with the county. People think, ‘well you’re probably communicating with your dad.’ You know, whether people believe it or not, there was actually zero communication. It was more his staff and . . . who handles those departments, just like anything. There’s no just because he’s my father and he is the mayor.”

Officials at the Grand Wailea — a Waldorf Astoria Resort, which hosted the dinner on Friday, did not comment on attendance or the venue.

“The health and safety of all guests, visitors and team members is our top priority,” Managing Director J.P. Oliver said in an emailed statement. “A private event benefiting a local, nonprofit organization was held at Grand Wailea this weekend. All health and safety regulations provided by the state and county were adhered to throughout the event.”

Maui County Communications Director Brian Perry said Monday that the event was conducted in accordance with all county COVID-19 health and safety protocols for golf tournaments and for outdoor commercial events.

“The event was done with the same restrictions as other golf tournaments and other commercial events,” Perry said.

Proceeds from the 2020 Shane Victorino Celebrity Dinner & Golf Classic will go toward helping Project Hawaii establish a much-needed chapter on Maui, Perry added.

The nonprofit is dedicated to supporting the needs of under-served children in Hawaii, and its mission is to enhance the lives of homeless children and help them escape the cycle of poverty and homelessness, he said.

Also during the mayor’s news conference on Monday, Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said that the county and the Department of Health and Human Services are working on surge testing for Kihei for Wednesday and Saturday at the South Maui Regional Park.

People will need to visit etruenorth.com and click “Do I need a COVID-19 test” to register.

Baz said the county has seen “an uptick in cases in South Maui.”

When asked for more details about the Kihei cases, Mayor Victorino said that due to privacy concerns for those involved, he would not go into specific numbers, but noted that some cases were a combination of travel, gatherings and community spread. Some residents, for example, traveled and then came home and tested positive.

He added that some loopholes will be closed today as the state requires trans-Pacific travelers to get a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling to Hawaii to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Previously, travelers could still come if their results were pending, though they had to quarantine until those results arrived.

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

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