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Maui mayor says uptick in COVID cases shows residents have grown ‘complacent’

Updated: Mar. 19, 2021 at 10:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Mayor Mike Victorino expressed frustration Thursday following an uptick in COVID cases on the island linked to “complacent” behavior.

Maui saw 41 new COVID cases Thursday.

Victorino said that 24 of those were linked to a place of worship and eight to an educational setting.

“This is quite different from the community-wide spread we witnessed after the holiday season,” Victorino said. “This pattern suggests groups of people have become complacent and are not following public health guidelines. Although vaccines are here, herd immunity is still months away.”

About 20% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Maui County has confirmed 275 new infections in the past two weeks and has the highest positivity rate in the state at 2.5%

The county’s top health official blames a specific variant for the rise in cases.

“A lot of our travelers are from the West Coast,” said Dr. Lorrin Pang.

Pang said the California variant was first detected in Maui in January. He said it is more transmissible than the standard strain and currently it is found in about 75% of the island’s cases.

“You’re dealing with a different beast here,” Pang said. “Whatever mitigation, masks, distancing and all that we did, we’re doing it about as good as before because we seem to control the normal COVID.

“It’s just that you really gotta step it up if you’re going to control the variant.”

Pang said the California variant is found in all current cases at the Maui Community Correctional Center. The state’s latest cluster report reveals the jail cluster has been linked to a total of 90 cases.

Other clusters in Maui were detected at bars, restaurants and in the travel industry.

“We don’t see it in the travelers themselves because they don’t want to be tested,” said Pang. “Housekeeping, front desk, restaurant, the drivers who deliver them.”

Pang said they will start vaccinating those high priority areas on Friday.

A number of states are also now seeing the beginnings of a spike and some countries outside the U.S. are seeing the beginnings of a third wave.

“There is an upswing in the number of COVID infections in many parts of Europe including Italy, France and Germany,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char.

“We’re seeing the numbers trending upwards in Brazil, India, parts of the Middle East, including Iran and the Ukraine. So we really need to be cautious.”

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