A new cluster in a Big Island fishing village raises concern while the death toll and case count continue to rise

Coronavirus

MILOLII, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Big Island surge isn’t slowing down, as existing clusters are increasing daily. Now residents and legislators are worried about a possible cluster in Milolii fishing village–they want swift action to prevent a major outbreak in the isolated village.

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Another 35 COVID-19 cases were recorded on Sept 2. on Hawaii Island, pushing the total Hawaii County number to 418 — the majority of them in the last two weeks alone.

Hawaii Island Senator Lorraine Inouye said more needs to be done.

“People are dying…I’m not happy. I’m very disappointed with those folks that just disregard any of the regulations. It’s not healthy.”

Inouye said she wants much more enforcement at problem areas and beach parks known for gatherings like Hapuna, Kalapana, Milolii and Spencer Park.

Mayor Harry Kim said the Hawaii Police Department has been stepping up enforcement in the last week. Kim also updated his emergency order, closing beaches to any types of gatherings–preventing tents, BBQ’s and other group events starting Sept. 4 through Sept. 19.

Meanwhile, the death toll on Hawaii Island is also on the rise– another veteran dying at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. It’s the fourth fatality there this week.

The cluster within the Veterans Home also increased, with 18 more residents and two more employees testing positive. The cluster there stands at 46 residents and 12 employees.

Kaimi Kaupiko, a resident of Milolii fishing village, said a cluster of cases is developing in his small town with seven people testing positive so far.

“Right now we’re kind of having an emergency with a lot of our families are getting tested to see if they have COVID-19. We’ve been prepared for a long time but unfortunately this pandemic has reached our community,” explained Kaupiko.

Kaupiko said he and several of his family members got tested on Sept. 2. He said the cluster may be linked to a birthday party that took place on Aug. 22.

He said there were about 40 people when he got there and it was mostly family and friends that were present. He said the entire community had been so good the past four to five months, they didn’t think anything would happen.

“This is something we’re going to have to learn from. Each person has to really think about their choices. And I’m really upset at myself but trying to see the bigger picture of what’s going on,” Kaupiko said.

Hawaii Island Senator Kai Kahele said that there is no confirmation of exactly how the cluster started in Milolii.

“If we can’t identify definitively that this is where the event came from, then we shouldn’t speculate on that. There’s been too much speculation on Hawaii Island recently without definitive information and it just creates more anxiety. It creates more angst in our community and that’s not what I need right now.”

Regardless of how it started, Kahele said he wants swift action to be taken.

“This outbreak has the potential to spread rapidly in the next 48 hours if we don’t get it under control and the first thing we need to do is put the message out that Milolii is closed for the weekend,” said Kahele.

Kahele also wants the County to provide testing for the roughly 300 residents in Milolii.

“Milolii is an isolated village, it’s 89 miles from Hilo. It takes a long time to get there. You cannot expect residents there, children there, kupuna to be able to travel all the way to Kona to be tested.”

In a letter addressed to Mayor Harry Kim, legislators called for the immediate shut down of Milolii with a road block to prevent outsiders from entering the small village. The letter also asked for PPE to be sent to residents in the village.

Kim said he is not taking any action until he can verify the number of cases within Milolii.

“The official count from the Department of Health given to us in the past day does not identify Milolii as the center of anything,” Kim explained.

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