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Restaurant closes for cleaning after COVID-19 cases found

Three employees at Monkeypod test positive for virus

A sign on the front door of Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman advises customers the Wailea restaurant is closed Friday afternoon. The restaurant shut down temporarily after three employees tested positive for COVID-19. Another Wailea restaurant, Pint and Cork, closed for a couple of days to do precautionary cleaning despite having no cases. County officials have said there has been a surge of cases recently in South Maui. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea closed temporarily “out of an abundance of caution” after three employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The Wailea eatery had just reopened Nov. 19 after being closed throughout the pandemic. While the state Department of Health did not require it to close, the restaurant said it made the decision anyway “because it was the responsible thing to do” after the three employees received test results on Tuesday.

“We are confident that these cases did not result from exposure at the Monkeypod Kitchen Wailea,” the restaurant announced on social media. “We have and will continue to follow all Maui Department of Health and CDC guidance regarding sanitation and best practices.”

On Wednesday, Monkeypod advised recent customers who may have eaten at the restaurant between Nov. 19 and Nov. 23 that one of the employees who has since tested positive for COVID-19 worked those days.

“According to the Maui Department of Health, diners do not meet the standards for contact tracing or quarantine but we feel that transparency is the best policy,” the post said. “Please get tested if you feel sick and stay safe.”

All restaurant staff were subject to temperature and health checks prior to each shift, but the three individuals who tested positive did not show any symptoms at those times.

Although no coronavirus cases were reported at the Pint and Cork at the Shops at Wailea, the restaurant took some precaution, announcing on Facebook that “we will be closed for a couple days to do a deep sanitation as a preventative measure for everyone’s safety.”

The Wailea restaurant resumed service at 2 p.m. Friday after cleaning was complete.

The DOH reported four new cases Friday for Maui, bringing the county’s total count to 644, including 521 on Maui, 106 on Lanai and 17 on Molokai. The positivity rate is 1.01 percent.

Over the holiday, 14 cases were reported Thursday, including four in Kihei, and 33 cases were reported in South Maui in the past 14 days, according to the DOH COVID-19 map.

Though the DOH did not indicate the cause of the coronavirus cases in South Maui, the Joint Information Center said that “the potential for community spread is always there when there are a number of recent cases.”

As of Friday afternoon, Maui’s seven day rolling average reached eight coronavirus cases per day, the island’s highest since mid-August.

A slight uptick in cases is due to “a combination” of travel and community spread, Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said Friday during a news conference, though he added that contact tracing data is still pending.

While officials discouraged travel over the holidays, a total of 8,116 people arrived in Hawaii from out of state on Thanksgiving Day, including 952 returning residents, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. A total of 2,135 trans-Pacific travelers flew into Kahului Airport on Thursday, with more than half indicating they came to Hawaii for vacation and 116 saying they were returning residents.

The arrival numbers are from data provided by the Safe Travels digital system.

On Friday, Gov. David Ige approved Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request to place a temporary moratorium on the island’s participation in the pre-travel testing program, after a rise in cases there. Starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, all trans-Pacific and intercounty travelers arriving on Kauai are subject to the 14-day quarantine regardless of testing.

Maui County, meanwhile, has been encouraging travelers to get another test upon arrival. The ongoing voluntary post-travel test program has administered over 4,900 COVID-19 tests, with almost 40 positive results so far, Deputy Managing Director Josiah Nishita said.

In partnership with Minit Medical, free post-travel tests are available in Lahaina, Kihei and Kahului by pre-registering on minitmed.com.

Nishita also said that Lanai’s confirmed case count has remained at 106 for the past few weeks. Maui County officials are considering moving back down to the Act with Care order once the Safer at Home order expires Monday, he said.

“Everyone has really stepped up to the plate to act as expeditiously as possible and we are really glad to see that case counts remain the same,” he said. “We obviously remain very cautious.”

In Kihei, surge testing continues from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the South Maui Community Park. The test is a self-administered nasal swab.

All clients must pre-register online and get a printed voucher, which must be shown with an ID, designated test time and date. For more information, visit eTrueNorth.com. The registration link is doineedacovid19test.com.

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

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