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Harbor Lights cluster reaches 92 COVID cases

Testing continues as county asks state for more restrictions

The COVID-19 cluster at the Harbor Lights condominium complex is now up to 92 cases, with more testing to continue, a county official and a Harbor Lights representative said on Friday.

Volunteers, including residents of Harbor Lights, were scheduled to conduct more cleaning of the complex on Friday night, on top of the cleaning that has already taken place in public areas including staircases and elevators, Harbor Lights spokeswoman Laurie Robello said at the county news conference Friday afternoon.

When residents were notified of COVID-19 cases in the complex Christmas Day, Robello said, “there was no violence, no anger.”

“Everybody took it very seriously,” she said.

The Health Department believes the outbreak at the Kahului complex is due to a holiday choir practice. Last week, the cluster had reached at least 30 cases and has since tripled.

Robello acknowledged there were some hangups in working with the county to bring in a vendor for professional cleaning. Delays were also caused by apartment officials needing to visit 351 units to notify residents, as well as check with the Fire Department on proper procedures to open certain doors in the building during cleaning.

When that was sorted out, the county scheduled cleaning for Jan. 3 but postponed it after a resident protested when the vendor showed up. The vendor left and is no longer available, so the county said Wednesday that Harbor Lights would find its own professional cleaner and receive reimbursement from the county.

Robello thanked Victorino, the county, state Department of Health and various community agencies for their assistance, including a food distribution of 10,400 pounds by Feed My Sheep on Thursday along with other donations, including personal protective equipment.

She said the Health Department went beyond what was expected and thanked Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang for visiting the complex several times with his bullhorn, asking residents to get tested, a challenge due to language barriers with some residents, Robello said.

She added that the apartment’s board of directors voted to issue a $100 fine to those without a mask outside of their units. Some residents told The Maui News this week that they’ve still seen people around the complex without masks even after the outbreak.

Mayor Michael Victorino also confirmed that the county asked Gov. David Ige to impose a stay-at-home order for the complex, but it was denied by the Attorney General and Governor’s Office.

“So the stay-at-home order cannot be implemented (for Harbor Lights) because the governor said no to that,” Victorino said.

“As far as Maui County, again, Dr. Pang and I have had many discussions, and he still says that if we can do what we supposed to be doing with the social gatherings, he doesn’t see the importance and need right now,” to move into a stricter tier, Victorino said.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t change, and if we don’t become more cognizant of our behaviors and doing the right things, well then, we will have to move to safer at home, and that would hurt a lot of business, but really it would hurt you, the people of Maui County, and that’s something I’m trying to avoid.”

However, there could be new guidelines on the horizon — Deputy Managing Director Josiah Nishita said the county has submitted additional rules to Ige for approval.

“We will provide an update next week on what those rules were and what has been approved,” Nishita added.

County officials and Pang all said that the increase in cases is related to holiday gatherings and was expected.

They also agreed with Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who on Thursday asked the public to put a two-week pause on social gatherings.

“If we can cool it on the parties for a while,” Pang said Friday.

He added that the “party time” is over as the holidays have passed, but added that “this is not a lockdown at home.”

He said families can go out as a unit in wide open spaces but should make sure they watch their distance to others.

Maui police are continuing to enforce emergency rules, with more than 1,600 citations for rules and orders violations issued from March 2020 until Thursday, Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said Friday. Of those, 628 were for mask violations and another 142 were for large social gatherings.

He did not provide a breakdown of the rest of the total.

Faaumu said police will continue enforcement and have more presence at food distribution, testing, and vaccine sites. He said they already have officers at the airport.

Police have also received around 2,500 emails from the public to report rules and orders violations at mpdquarantine@mpd.net. MPD also has a non-emergency line at 244-6400.

Late Thursday, Hale Makua Health Services confirmed a positive COVID-19 resident who was asymptomatic, spokeswoman Ashley Takitani Leahey said in an email Friday.

The resident is at Hale Makua’s Kahului facility, and testing at the facility ramped up after the positive resident was found, she said. There will be three rounds of testing, three to four days apart, for 14 days, she said.

On Dec. 30 and 31, the Kahului facility received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with about 40 percent of staff and 80 percent of residents taking the shot, Takitani said.

The vaccine dates for the Kahului campus are Jan. 28 and 29.

She said more staff are planning to take the shot in future clinics.

Hale Makua’s facility in Wailuku will begin its first round of vaccinations on Monday.

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

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