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Reopening Continues, Social Distancing Still Required

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Last week brought some significant changes to permitted activities, as well as reopening dates for several industries.

Beaches are now open for passive activities like sunbathing, reading or watching the sunset, as long as social distancing is observed. These activities will be permitted in Maui County on a trial basis between May 16 and May 30. Additional county parks on Molokai opened (see the news release in this issue for details), as well as the county tennis court in Kaunakakai. The public pool, community centers and gyms remain closed.

Drive-in religious services can begin May 22, hair salons can reopen May 25 and dine-in restaurants can begin serving June 5. The County Department of Motor Vehicles office opened May 18 for limited services.

This is the third week since Governor Ige issued the Safer-At-Home order and last week he said he is happy the reported cases continue to remain low.

“Hawaii is one of the safest states in the nation in the fight against COVID-19,” stated the governor’s office. “In addition to the low number of new cases, Hawaii has achieved some other key metrics, permitting the reopening of specific sectors of our economy.”

Yet visitor numbers to the state are slowly rising, with continued arrests for violation of the 14-day travel quarantine.

As the state looks toward the eventual reopening of air travel to and around the state, Lt. Governor Josh Green proposed a program, he’s calling “Travel with Aloha.” He said he believes such a program could help mitigate possible importation of coronavirus from traveling visitors and residents. A key component includes having visitors and returning residents voluntarily getting COVID-19 tests within 72-hours of their departure to the islands. People who decline to get tested would undergo additional testing and screening upon their arrival at Hawaii airports.

“This could cut several hours from their vacation or return home and they could be required to undergo a possible 14-day mandatory quarantine,” said Green. “It’s imperative we do everything we can to safeguard our state from importing coronavirus through travel, while maintaining our community’s aloha for visitors.”

The state’s resistance to contact tracing has drawn criticism but Dept. of Health officials say they’re working on a plan to rapidly increase testing and contact tracing capacity. As more businesses open back up, this will be necessary to detect and respond to any increase in new cases, the Dept. said.

State officials reminded the public that continued vigilance is necessary to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

“Complacency is a serious concern as reports of fewer cases inadvertently signals less urgency,” said DOH officials. “Informal gatherings are being observed and people are doing less social distancing and everyone is not wearing a mask. Any success we are seeing now will backslide if everyone in our communities does not comply with stay at home, social distancing, mask-wearing, and other measures to keep the spread of coronavirus controlled.”

Many Molokai community members have also observed similar trends in social gatherings and relaxed physical distancing measures, urging fellow residents to continue to exercise restraint and stay safe.

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