Rural Maui County lawmakers seek National Guard assistance

Rural Maui County lawmakers seek National Guard assistance

KULA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County has been implementing tougher rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus, even as the number of cases continues to rise on the Valley Isle and amid reports that not everyone is following social distancing rules on Molokai.

The county implemented an Easter weekend curfew and instituted roving checkpoints to make more people comply with the state’s stay-at-home order.

State lawmakers who represent rural areas have now sent a request to Gov. David Ige, asking for assistance from the National Guard.

“These are local people. The National Guard are local. They all work with us, and it is to enhance the local police force and local support,” said state Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English of Hana, who also represents east and upcountry Maui, as well as the islands of Molokai and Lanai.

“Some might take it differently, but we look at it as a safety measure for those that are asking for that,” said state Rep. Lynn DeCoite of Molokai. “They are wanting the National Guard to be here.”

National Guard members have already been helping police at curfew checkpoints on Kauai. English and DeCoite would want similar assistance for their areas.

“For Hana, we have a road that’s closed and we have to maintain that,” said English. “We’ve been having a hard time.”

On Molokai, DeCoite said some people are becoming frustrated as they have to wait in long lines to get groceries after two workers at Friendly Market Center in Kaunakakai tested positive for COVID-19. Friendly Market closed until April 20, while the remaining larger grocery stores cut their hours and had customers wait outside.

“We have our stores, the lines are long, and having their presence here adds a little more safety, security for some of the people," said DeCoite.

DeCoite also said that having some National Guard members on Molokai will ease the burden on the island’s scant police force.

“They need help. They might need that relief time. They have to rest. We want them focused and we want them safe," she said.

English said he and DeCoite thought long about making the request.

“This is a very, very difficult decision and one that we don’t make lightly. And it’s also one that we felt had to done to maintain the safety of everyone," he said.

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