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Ask The Mayor

Mayor Michael Victorino answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Q: Why are cruise ships still allowed to come to Hawaii during the coronavirus pandemic?

A: I also share your concerns. I have urged the federal government to implement a temporary ban on all cruise ships from docking in Hawaii. Thankfully, many of the cruise ships have suspended operations, including Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Viking Cruises. Other companies including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC cruises have also agreed to suspend outbound trips from the U.S. for 30 days as requested by President Donald Trump.

I want to clarify again, though, that our harbors are under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Transportation. However, the state is not able to close a harbor or stop people from disembarking without federal approval.

All vessel representatives are required to report sick or deceased passengers within the last 15 days to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the Coast Guard sees anything of concern before the vessel arrives, it is reported to the CDC, and they work cooperatively with the CDC, state, and the company to address any needs and concerns.

I’d like to stress to the public that our local U.S. Coast Guard command centers need their phone lines to remain clear for emergency search-and-rescue operations and other breaking events. If you have concerns and would like more information on the coronavirus, please call the COVID-19 Info line at 2-1-1.

General information and resources on COVID-19 (coronavirus) can be found on the County of Maui’s website at mauicounty.gov. For primary sources of information and updates, please visit the state DOH website at health.hawaii.gov/ and CDC website at www.cdc.gov/.

Q: Why are children still going to school with all the concerns surrounding the coronavirus?

A: We’ve been asked this question many times, and I think it’s important for people to understand that schools fall under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Education. As you may already know, the DOE canceled all school and department-related travel to the U.S. Mainland and international destinations until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The DOE also stated on its website that it is “working closely with the Hawaii Department of Health on guidance for students, teachers, parents and staff to prepare for and prevent the possible arrival of the COVID-19 disease at school campuses.”

“In close coordination with DOH, existing emergency response plans are being adapted for future implementation when needed to help stop the spread of the disease,” according to its website. “Detailed communications from schools are planned to keep parents notified should the situation arise.”

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association also announced that starting today, “all interscholastic competition will be suspended indefinitely based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat.”

“The possible resumption of play will not be made without the HHSAA first consulting with the Hawaii state Department of Health and the Lieutenant Governor’s office,” according to the HHSAA. “The HHSAA will also continue to evaluate the situation and make a later determination regarding its spring state tournaments scheduled for May.”

My administration will be assisting our local students, teachers and DOE staff in whatever way they need. I want to thank them all as well as our parents for doing their part to protect the health of our children and limit the spread of illness in our community. For the latest and most accurate updates from the state Department of Education, visit www.hawaiipublicschools.org/Pages/Home.aspx.

Q: I heard Matson is shutting down and won’t have shipments of supplies? Is this true?

A: I think this is a good example of how the community can help discourage rumors and encourage the sharing of official sources of information. All Hawaii Department of Transportation harbors and airports continue to be open and operational. Matson and Pasha Hawaii both released statements Friday that their operations continue uninterrupted and intend to maintain existing routes and schedules.

However, because of this rumor, Costco and many of our stores were nightmares for our local residents and visitors. This caused many people to hoard supplies as well as jeopardize the safety of many people in the store and outside in the parking lot.

Rumors can spread widespread panic and fear — which can be far worse than any virus. I’m asking everyone to do their part in discouraging rumors and staying informed through official sources of information.

If you have any questions related to COVID-19 or would like to verify something you’ve heard, please call the Aloha United Way call center at 2-1-1. They are taking calls from any location in the state every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can also text (877) 275-6569 or email info211@auw.org. For more information, visit health.hawaii.gov/covid19 or coronavirus.gov.

* Want to Ask the Mayor? Submit your Maui County related questions to Mayor Michael Victorino by email at askthemayor@mauicounty.gov, by phone at 270-7855 or by mail at 200 S. High St., ninth floor, Wailuku 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column; to request a personal response to a concern, email mayors.office@mauicounty.gov.

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