Governor approves new Maui County rules to stem coronavirus

Governor approves new Maui County rules to stem coronavirus

WAILUKU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County will have stricter rules for travelers and businesses next week in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. David Ige approved the request from Mayor Mike Victorino for the new rules.

While Maui County’s case count is nowhere near Oahu’s triple digit totals, Maui in particular has outpaced the Big Island and Kauai, with 26 new cases reported Friday.

The mayor is calling the new rules an “Act with Care” step, which limits all retailers to 30 percent capacity.

“We’ll give you an example,” county Managing Director Sandy Baz said, at a news conference announcing the changes. “A shop with four thousand square feet would have an allowable occupancy of 34 customers.”

County and state health officials decided on the move after determining that shutting down businesses would not slow the community spread.

The rules include a math formula for businesses to determine their capacity, which involves taking a store’s square footage, multiplying it by 36 square feet to determine how much space is needed to keep customers six feet apart, and then multiplying that figure by 30 percent.

Most big retailers, like Target or Walmart, already know their stores’ capacities, but smaller businesses may have a harder time.

“I agree, it is a little bit cumbersome, but again, many of them have capacities that are fairly small in numbers, and so just do the best you can with that,” said Victorino.

“We’ll sit down and do the calculations and see if it affects us, but the way business has been, I’m sure it’s not really going to affect us,” said Kim Ball, owner of Hi-Tech Surf Sports, which has five shops on Maui.

Retailers said that business has remained slow, especially after a meager holiday shopping season slowed by the pandemic.

Many stores have already doing their part to keep customers and employees safe, and said the new rules unfairly target them.

“To lower the number of people in the store, it’s kind of tragic because we’re getting penalized for the higher number of COVID cases that happened because people gathered during Christmas and New Year’s,” said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

The county will also require all travelers -- including those coming in from neighbor islands -- to download the Aloha Safe Alert contact tracing app and show it to screeners.

People going to fitness centers, like gyms and yoga studios, will be required to wear masks, both indoors and out.

Mayor Victorino said those gatherings will likely keep the case count up for a while, even with the rule changes.

“We’re seeing the leveling off and hopefully now, in the not too distant future, the decline,” he said. “But we’re probably looking to the end of January or the first week of February before we see any kind of significant change.”

The new rules take effect a minute after midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

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