Stores Reopen, School to Remain Closed
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Molokai remains at two COVID-19 cases after two large-scale testing events in the past two weeks. The county reported that 400 people during the April 7 drive-thru testing and nearly 100 people during last week’s event. Though neither the Mayor’s office nor state officials could provide confirmation, sources say all results have been negative so far.
Statewide, there were 580 cases as of Sunday, 414 of which have been released from isolation; there have been 10 deaths in the state linked to COVID-19.
After more than two weeks closed following two employees testing positive, Friendly Market Center reopened their doors on Monday. Customers are required to follow a one-way flow line through the store aisles to minimize congestion and follow social distancing recommendations. Hours posted as of Sunday are Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with kupuna hours Tuesday and Friday from 8 to 9 a.m.
After only accepting phone orders since Friendly Market closed, Misaki’s also reopened for public entry Monday. As of Sunday, their posted hours are Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with kupuna only hours Tuesday and Friday from 8 to 9 a.m. Management posted that Misaki’s will enforce a time limit for shipping.
Both stores require a face mask or covering for entry, a written shopping list, one person per household, and staff will limit the number of customers in the store. Staff at both stores are also sanitizing shoppers’ hands before entry, and sanitizing carts after each use.
Kualapu’u Market, which had operated with a car lineup for curbside pickup, also opened back up for customers inside the store this week. Hours are currently posted as Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with kupuna hours 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday. Mask and gloves are required for entry, along with a shopping list. Market management announced it will limit the number of customers in the store and the shopping time given to each customer, along with a limit of one shopper per household.
The Department of Education announced last week that public schools will remain closed through the end of the school year, with teachers, students and parents continuing to navigate distance learning.
“This pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way that education will be delivered at all levels and especially how our Department will operate moving forward,” said DOE Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “We have pushed our boundaries and created new ways of delivering on our mission, including expanding distance learning opportunities, establishing an equity of access approach to devices and the internet, and exploring work from home approaches that can help us rethink our real estate footprint for non-instructional staff. I want to acknowledge the resiliency of the DOE workforce and thank them for rising to the challenge of looking for innovative ways to move our work forward through this unprecedented time.”
Additionally, traditional graduation ceremonies have been cancelled. Alternative graduation honors are being planned for this year’s seniors, and many Molokai students and families have already come up with ideas ranging from an island wide car parade to drive-up slide shows on a big screen.
More support for food shipment to Molokai residents also emerged last week. In addition to Mokulele, ‘Ohana by Hawaiian is now providing free air transport of groceries to Molokai. On Maui, 808Pickups, owned by Alfy Basurto, has started offering pickup of groceries from stores like Costco, Target and Whole Foods to Molokai residents via Mokulele shipment.
“People are really happy about it, and we’re super stoked,” said Basurto, who has been spreading the word to Molokai through social media.
Last week, Governor Ige issued a Fifth Supplementary Proclamation that adds to existing emergency rules for the COVID-19 crisis. Most notably, it includes the closure of all beaches.
“It became clear that many people are continuing to access beaches, waters, and trails for social and recreational activities without proper social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis,” states a release from the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources last week. “Such activity contributes to the risk of spread of coronavirus across the state.”
Under the new rules, all beaches are closed, which means no sitting, standing, lying down, lounging, sunbathing or loitering on beaches. People can still cross beaches to access the ocean for outdoor exercise like surfing, solo paddling and swimming as long as social distances are maintained.
People can still fish and gather to get food, as long as it’s not in groups of more than two people, unless all in the group are part of a single family unit living at the same address.
With Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) still in high demand for healthcare providers and emergency personnel, Mayor Victorino provided 1,000 facemasks to Molokai healthcare workers and first responders last week. Five hundred masks were delivered to Molokai General Hospital, 250 masks were given to police officers and 250 masks were delivered to American Medical Response.
Historically high unemployment insurance claims have flooded the state, with an increase of 2,943.2 percent of initial claims last week over the same week in 2019. Scott Murakami, Director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR), reported that the state has already paid out more than $20 million in benefits, paying out over $11 million last week alone. He said the State will likely need to borrow money due to a shortfall of federal funds and programs to cover the difference in existing funds.
Many Molokai residents have struggled to file claims online with the system bogging down. To decrease the traffic to the centralized Unemployment Insurance portal, DLIR launched three websites for initial filings, biweekly claims and filing status. The main unemployment insurance website is now open 24/7, it announced, and includes a step-by-step guide and FAQ section. Murakami said the department created different phone numbers for filers based on the specific services needed, available on its website. DLIR has also established email addresses specific by county.