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Kama‘aina First program aims to kick-start local economy

OUR COUNTY

Our success in curbing the spread of coronavirus has paved a path to a “New Normal,” a way to live safely with COVID-19 until there’s an effective treatment or vaccine.

It’s encouraging to note:

• No fatalities in a month.

• More than 95 percent of cases have been cleared.

• Over 8,000 tests reported in Maui County, with only 1.4 percent returned as positive.

• In a 30-day period as of Wednesday, Maui County reported only four cases, an average of only one every 7.5 days.

We ask the public to expect new cases, especially as we reopen more businesses, parks, public pools and other facilities. In a little more than a week, interisland travel resumes without 14-day quarantine requirements.

In an initiative to kick-start our local economy, the County of Maui Office of Economic Development has launched the Kama’aina First program. Nearly 400 businesses are offering special deals for local residents for accommodations, activities, restaurants, products and services. To learn more, visit www.KamaainaFirst.com or call OED at 270-7710.

Small local businesses are also being assisted through the Micro Business Loan Program, a County of Maui partnership with the Maui Chamber of Commerce. Of more than 100 applicants, 59 were funded after a rigorous review, with loan amounts ranging from $7,500 to $25,000.

As businesses reopen, they are required to follow public health emergency rules, and we encourage them to use CDC guidelines for best practices. Of course, we ask our residents to shop local to help our relatives, friends and neighbors through these tough economic times.

Our local economy will get a boost June 16 when the interisland travel quarantine is lifted. This will allow Hawaii residents to see friends and family on other islands and help airport officials prepare eventually for out-of-state travelers.

The road to recovery is being taken cautiously and deliberately, with health and safety protocols put in place to ensure physical distancing and enhanced hygiene. We continue to monitor the sustained low numbers of COVID-19 cases, the capacity of our healthcare infrastructure, expanded testing and robust contact tracing.

Maui County’s healthcare resources are in good shape, with only 7 percent of ventilators in use as of Wednesday and about half of ICU beds occupied. None of the ICU patients at Maui Memorial Medical Center are COVID related.

In summary, we are in a much better place now than we were when this crisis started a few months ago. I credit our success to Maui County residents and everyone in public, private and nonprofit sectors who’ve worked so hard to keep our community safe. A special mahalo goes out to the Maui County Council for funding more than a dozen food distribution events, the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership (H.E.L.P.), the Micro Business Loan program and emergency temporary housing at Waiale Park.

The vast majority of our residents have taken their civic responsibilities seriously and have embraced the need to keep our community safe and healthy. They’ve stayed home, diligently practiced physical distancing, frequently washed their hands, and they’ve worn face masks.

It hasn’t been easy, but these healthy practices will need to continue until we have confidence in our community’s safety from transmission of the coronavirus. Nevertheless, we should not be afraid to go outside, to shop at stores or eat in restaurants.

My administration continues to work with county, state and federal partners as well as private businesses, nonprofits and the community to keep our community safe.

While we continue to make progress with the challenges brought by the coronavirus, our nation has been confronted with civil unrest brought by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It’s encouraging that demonstrations in Maui County have been peaceful. Joycelyn and I extend our prayers and condolences to the Floyd family.

Lastly, I remind everyone to participate in the U.S. Census. An accurate count of everyone in Maui County will give us our fair share of $675 billion in federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs such as Medicare and Head Start. In late May, Maui County’s self-response rate was 45.4 percent. We can do better.

Remember, you can take the census online, by phone or by mail. It’s fast, easy and confidential.

Aloha!

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Saturdays of the month.

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