Maui County’s rural areas especially at risk for coronavirus, says lawmaker

Maui County's rural areas at high risk of coronavirus

HANA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Molokai racked up two positive COVID-19 cases in two days. And according to the area’s state senator, that shows how quickly the disease can spread in Hawaii’s more isolated rural areas.

The Molokai cases involved two workers at Friendly Market Center in Kaunakakai. The store has been closed until April 20.

State Sen. J. Kalani English is concerned.

“It’s hearbreaking,” he said. “I’m speechless. I don’t really know how to describe the feelings.”

English said efforts are being made to ensure the food supply chain isn’t interrupted for the island’s 7,500 or so residents.

“Friendly Isle Market is the largest supplier of food on the island,” he said. “We had a conference all this morning with the Kualapuu Market and Misaki’s -- which are the other two (grocery stores) -- to basically redistribute the food that’s coming in for Friendly Isle market to the other stores.”

English represents the islands of Molokai and Lanai, as well as the upcountry and East Maui areas. That includes Hana, where he was raised. He believes those areas are especially vulnerable because they don’t have the medical facilities or personnel to handle an outbreak.

“If we can quarantine Lanai, Molokai and Hana - cut them off completely except for food and supplies coming in, and no one in or no one out -- I think that would help us to minimize the amount of people to get COVID-19,” said English.

Lanai has a population of 3,100 or so residents. So far, there are no reported cases on the island,but English is also concerned about reports that an out-of-state contractor was working on a project at the island’s airport.

“We’ve been talking to the Department of Transportation to halt that project. Just say right now, halt the project. We don’t need anybody coming into Lanai at all,” he said.

“We’re all in this together. And if we all hunker down, stay home, not socialize, we can stop the spread of this virus.”

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