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Mayor mulls restrictions for COVID-19 cluster areas

County has seen nearly 40 new cases two days in a row

Mayor Michael Victorino is mulling tighter restrictions for areas recently linked to higher counts of COVID-19, including four entities with confirmed clusters.

The state Department of Health reported that 24 cases were linked to a place of worship, 17 cases to bars and nightclubs, 13 cases to cleaning service employees who were carpooling and eight linked to an educational setting, all within the past two weeks.

“The pattern suggests that people are being complacent about following public health guidelines in certain settings, such as places of worship, bars and nightclubs and at work,” Managing Director Sandy Baz said during a news conference Friday afternoon. “We’re also hearing reports of spring break visitors who are not wearing masks.”

DOH reported 37 new cases on Maui Friday, which are mostly attributed to Central and South Maui households. One case is in Hana, Baz said.

In a news release on Thursday, Victorino expressed disappointment and frustration over 41 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county, 39 on Maui and two on Molokai. Oahu’s COVID-19 case count on Thursday was 38.

Maui County’s COVID-19 positivity rate is 2.7 percent, the highest in the state.

Baz also noted during the news conference that “it’s really important to understand” that the majority of the cases make up the four confirmed clusters.

“I’m looking at additional restrictions, especially for where these clusters are coming out,” Victorino said.

The mayor met with Gov. David Ige, State Health Director Dr. Libby Char and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara on Friday morning to better understand why Maui County had two consecutive days of double-digit cases numbers.

“We’re trying to meet the needs, trying to make sure that all the necessary wraparound services are provided to the various clusters,” Victorino said. “I’m asking the county and our residents, I’ve said this many times, we get our numbers down, we’re looking good, and then all of a sudden we get a little complacent.

“With that said, I ask this county to continue doing their vigilance, keep our counts from getting higher, wearing a mask, good hygiene and physical distancing.”

When asked if more health and safety protocols are needed for restaurants, he said, “we are looking at maybe reducing the hours if necessary, but I’m trying to allow for them to do the cleaning up, establishing and reevaluating how they’ve been serving the people of Maui County and the visitors alike.”

Discussions of lifting the interisland travel quarantine in April without restrictions is “still on the table,” however, Victorino said that he would like to see COVID-19 cases level out first.

With an uptick in trans-Pacific travelers, Victorino said visitors should follow current health and safety protocols or “they will get cited and fined.”

“We request that they continue to wear masks, even if they’re coming from places like Texas or Mississippi where mask mandates are no longer applicable,” Victorino said. “Here, it’s still a mandate, and I want them to understand that we are upping the enforcement.”

Baz said that 437 total citations have been issued, plus multiple arrests, to residents and tourists who violated the public health rules. Maui police have been increasing their efforts in tourist areas, such as Front Street and the rest of Lahaina town.

Victorino said that if the community adheres to public safety protocols and as the vaccine rollout continues, “we’ll be in good shape” in the next 45 to 60 days.

“We’re at that crucial point, we know we can get to the finish line, but we all need to continue to work together,” he said. “A little more sacrifice and we will bear the fruits of our labor, probably by the end of May or early June.”

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

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