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Changes to Local, State and National Policies

Last week, Molokai experienced its first two coronavirus cases, while as of Sunday, there were 369 positive cases in Hawaii, out of 13,536 tests conducted in the state so far. The state also reported the fourth death linked to the virus.

Following the news of the first positive test result on Molokai last Thursday, grocery stores across the island immediately closed, remaining shuttered for sanitation on Friday. With continued closures for Friendly Market, Misaki’s and Kualapu’u Market opened on Saturday, under a new model: curbside pickup for preordered items only.

“We’ve had long discussions about the safety of our staff, our customers and the island in general and are going to implement curbside pickup only,” posted Kualapu’u Market on its Facebook page. “No one will be allowed in the store. No phone orders, no orders over FB. This will be a first come, first served situation. We expect significant wait times, please be patient.”

Management required one person per family only, with face mask and list ready. With the help of police officers to implement smooth traffic flow, Kualapu’u Market reported a successful day.

“We have an army of people filling orders, things are orderly and calm, in large part thanks to the Maui Police Department regulating the traffic and our lovely island citizens were treating each other with so much respect. Orders are taking 15 to 20 minutes to process but that could vary…. We’d like to thank everyone for being so respectful following the rules.”

The store’s Facebook page said they would announce continued openings and procedures on a day to day basis.

At Misaki’s, where staff had similar requirements for service, Rep. Lynn DeCoite said things were a little more chaotic, with pileups of customers. DeCoite said Sunday store management was discussing making some changes to their pick up operations.

Kit Okimoto, co-owner of Friendly Market Center, said the store will remain closed until April 20, with all employees in self-quarantine after two employees tested positive last week.

Okimoto was well aware of the pressure his store’s closure creates for the remaining local stores.

“The other markets are getting overwhelmed and we need to appreciate those guys and I hope the community shows their appreciation for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, in addition to the county’s stay at home rules through April 30, a state 14-day quarantine policy went into effect April 1 for inter-island travel, including to and from Molokai. 

Travelers arriving by airline will be required to complete an inter-island declaration form provided by the state. In addition, all travelers will receive an order from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency related to their status.

The policy affects everyone returning home from non-essential travel. The mandatory quarantine will not apply to any person or activity deemed essential under the stay at home order, including infrastructure and essential maintenance personnel (water, wastewater and utilities), construction workers, law enforcement and emergency services personnel, healthcare providers, individuals receiving medical treatment, agricultural workers, those providing essential food or supplies and media personnel.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed its recommendations on wearing masks. While it previously said masks were not recommended for the general public, it now recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public settings, particularly where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout restaurants. This is meant to protect others from those may be carrying COVID-19 without symptoms, and meant to compliment, not replace, physical distancing.

“Many of us may be walking around unaware that we may be carrying coronavirus, and when we cough, sneeze, and to a lesser degree, even speak, cloth masks can block infectious droplets and prevent the virus from spreading,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson. “Protection of others is maximized when facemasks are used. However, it is important to avoid touching your face when wearing and adjusting a mask. Remember, my facemask protects you and your facemask protects me.”

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 masks. Those are critical supplies that need to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

Many stores are now requiring masks to be worn before residents are offered service, and local seamstresses are busy sewing masks to sell and share.

“There is no need to wear a cloth mask when you’re outdoors and not in close proximity to anyone else,” Anderson concluded. “Being outside in fresh air is good for us, and there is no risk of being infected as long as you’re not around other people. So, we encourage people to walk, run, and surf…as long as you practice good physical distancing. Don’t hesitate to remind others to do the same.”

While schools remain closed, the Dept. of Education said the Grab and Go meal service previously offered at Molokai High School has been suspended due to the island’s confirmed cases. The DOE said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution and they will notify the community when the service is able to resume.

The information in this story is current as of press deadline Sunday, April 5 but with the current situation changing rapidly, updates will be available on The Molokai Dispatch Facebook page and website.


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