MauiNow.com, May 27, 2020, 3:17 PM HST
By Wendy Osher
The amount of National Guard troops serving as part of the COVID-19 response in Maui County is being reduced as many locations across the state resume phased reopening of businesses and services.
The reduction in force from 200 individuals last week to around 100 individuals next week has already started. An estimated 15 troops returned home last week, followed by 44 troops on Tuesday and 52 more will return back to their home bases this Friday.
“We will still have approximately 100-plus National Guard service personnel still stationed here in Maui County to assist the police, Fire Department and other areas as far as manpower,” said Mayor Victorino who met with troops on Tuesday at the Maui Coast Hotel, where off-island troops had stayed, to thank them for their service.
“What they’ve done for us has been invaluable,” said Mayor Victorino. “They’ve been instrumental in helping us get back some of the crucial points… building tiny homes, assisting us with the quarantine stations, helping us with our checkpoints. They’ve been invaluable all around, so we want to say mahalo to them and wish them well and good luck and success.”
In mid-April, the Hawai‘i National Guard increased its personnel to 1,200 Guardsmen statewide to help with the COVID-19 response.
Mayor Victorino said troops will continue to man the checkpoint along the Hāna Highway, which was put in place to restrict traffic to residential motorists only in an effort to protect one of Maui’s rural communities from infection.
“At this time I don’t foresee the road and its checkpoint being changed. We are looking at a management-type approach for the Road to Hāna. This will give us federal funding to assist us–and I want to thank Senator J. Kalani English who has been working with us, as far as establishing some guidelines for managing the Road to Hāna.”
Mayor Victorino said the effort could result in federal funding for revised management of other roads to Maui’s rural communities in the near future. “But we need to set up one as a test site,” said Mayor Victorino.
According to the State of Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Joint Information Center (JIC) the more than 100 Hawaiʻi National Guardsmen remaining in Maui County will support missions requested by the County.
The missions that Task Force Maui will be continuing include: Medical Screening at airports in Kahului, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi; medical screening at Lahaina and Lānaʻi harbors; traffic control points on Maui; roving checkpoints on Molokaʻi; and more.