High-use areas in Hana to be cleaned

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Hana residents today should expect to see workers with personal protective equipment sanitizing areas in East Maui that are frequented most, including grocery stores and parks, in the wake of the area’s first confirmed coronavirus case, said state Sen. J. Kalani English on Monday.

The Hana resident, whose district includes the East Maui area, said H2O Process Systems, the same company that sanitized businesses on Molokai after the island’s first confirmed case, will be working in Hana today.

Last week, a Hana woman who returned from Canada on March 20, tested positive for the virus. English said that the woman came down with a mild form of the virus and is staying with her daughter in Wailuku.

“Honestly, the worst part of my experience with this disease has been the unrelenting guilt since learning of my results,” the woman said in a public Facebook post. “I would never intend to keep this ‘secret’ from my community but have needed a little time to cope with the news on my own. I would NEVER knowingly do anything to jeopardize the health of any of you.

“I understand your frustration and fears, but please know I have done everything in my power to prevent any further spread of the disease.”

In her post, she said that after returning home she had “absolutely no contact with anyone except for my husband and my daughter, who have also been in quarantine for two weeks now.” She said she is a Type 1 diabetic and a high-risk patient; that’s why she is staying in Wailuku, close to the hospital, in case her condition worsens.

Multiple attempts by The Maui News to contact the woman over the last three days were unsuccessful. Several Hana residents, who know the woman, confirmed the authenticity of the post.

Because of the confirmed case, English led efforts to bring H2O Process Systems to Hana. He said he told residents, during a video meeting Sunday night, that “I don’t want you to panic and be scared when you see four people in hazmat suits spraying down the town.”

On Monday, English asked everyone to heed the warnings to stay home. Hana has one confirmed case, but “the way we are viewing it, there are others; we just haven’t found them yet,” he said.

English gave kudos to Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino for his support in quickly working to help sanitize areas on Molokai and in Hana; state efforts would have taken “a little bit longer.”

County spokesman Chris Sugidono said late Monday afternoon that the sanitation efforts for both Molokai and Hana will cost $5,000 to $6,000 and will come from the $4 million COVID-19 emergency fund approved by the Maui County Council.

Milton Choi, the head of H2O Process Systems, said in the Sunday night video that his crews will employ the same process used for City and County of Honolulu buses. The product and process used follow Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Prevention and Control guidelines.

The product is safe around humans, and ingredients are used in swimming pools, he said. Workers may wear protective gear, but that is for their protection in areas that may contain the virus, Choi said.

Today’s sanitation efforts include Hasegawa General Store, Hana Ranch Store, Hana Post Office, Hana Gas, Hana Airport, parks and other stores in town. English still was trying to contact other establishments Monday morning.

The mood is “sober” in East Maui, English said. “I think with the first case, people realized, ‘Oh OK, this is real.’ “

The world-famous Hase-gawa General Store was taking it seriously. Owner Neil Hasegawa will move to a call-in order system after his store is sanitized today. He will ask customers to call in their grocery lists and have employees run the groceries out to the parking lot.

“We are not going to let any customers in the store,” he said. “What we don’t want is people congregating in the parking lot. That’s why we are kind of stressing phone orders.”

He also is asking that when customers show up at the store, even for picking up groceries in their cars, that they wear a mask to protect everyone, especially his employees who come in contact with customers.

Hasegawa said it has been difficult to keep all 11 employees on the payroll with the road to Hana supposedly open to residents only and few visitors. The store has cut back hours on weekends to 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The store had been open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Hasegawa said his employees have been working with masks and gloves for about a week now. At first, with no official calls to wear masks unless ill, he made N95 masks available for kupuna. The masks sold out, just as the directive to wear masks came out last week.

But a private doctor brought some masks for Hasegawa, and members in the community are sewing cloth masks for them.

Hasegawa also had to work hard to get high demand products, such as toilet paper, reaching out to multiple suppliers. Finding sanitizing wipes remains an issue, he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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