Maui residents use signs, checkpoints to stop highway travel
WAILUKU — Maui residents have been using signs and checkpoints to help enforce a government order to keep visitors off Hana Highway during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Democratic Gov. David Ige instructed the state Department of Transportation March 18 to limit access along the highway on Maui’s eastern coast, The Maui News reported Wednesday.
Ige limited use of the highway between Kaupakalua Road in Haiku and Hana to residents, first responders and delivery trucks until further notice.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino also closed the Piilani Highway to nonresidents from Hana to Ulupalakua and the Kahekili Highway from Waihee to Kahakuloa Village.
There was no significant decrease in visitors on Hana Highway for recreational purposes since the restriction was announced, said Napua Hueu, director of the Hana Highway Regulation committee.
Residents have painted their own signs to discourage recreational travel along Hana Highway, Hueu said.
“It is imperative we reduce nonessential, recreational visitor travel along the Hana Highway to safeguard the health of our rural communities,” Hueu said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Kailua, Keanae and Nahiku residents were also seen asking nonresident vehicles on Hana Highway to turn around.
The Hana Highway Regulation committee planned to establish two checkpoints on Hana Highway Wednesday. Free training sessions were held Monday and Tuesday, Hueu said.
Democratic State Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents the area, said large numbers of rental cars travel Hana Highway on a typical day.
“We cannot have thousands of tourists from around the world causing traffic and entering closed parks, coming into contact with one another and our residents,” English said.
English added: “As a resident of Hana, I know that the majority of our economy in East Maui depends on tourism and that this pandemic is causing a major hardship, but when we’re choosing between saving lives and the economy, health must come first.”