HAWAII (KHON2)–A new cluster of a dozen positive COVID-19 cases identified at McDonald’s on Hawaii Island. Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said he was first notified about the cluster Friday.
Kim said there is a cluster of 12 people who tested positive all linked to one place in Kailua-Kona.
“This increase is mainly the result of a fast food establishment employee and contact with fellow employees and family,” Kim explained.
“The establishment has closed and remains closed. Department of Health are continuing the investigation and states the exposure to customers is unlikely.”
Kim said that out of the 12 infected, five are employees. He said seven are members of the same family, two of the seven also work at the McDonalds.
In a statement, McDonald’s owner, operator Patrick Lim said:
“Our highest priority is to protect the health and well-being of our people. We recently learned that some employees from our Kona Commons and McDonald’s of Walmart Kona locations have tested positive for the coronavirus. As soon as we were notified of the confirmed cases, we immediately closed the restaurant and have conducted a thorough sanitization procedure as well as notify local public health authorities. Additionally, we have also added protective barriers to limit contact in our restaurants. We identified and reached out to all restaurant staff who had been in close contact with the employees who contracted the virus and advised they self-quarantine for 14 days. Under the guidance of the Health Department of Hawaii, we have offered universal testing to our employees at each location. Our people are the heart and soul of our McDonald’s family, and we are keeping those impacted in our thoughts for a fast and full recovery.”
Kim said Hawaii county will also ramp-up prevention methods like sanitization and he will continue to encourage residents to wear masks when they are out in public.
“We will not back-down on this because it can blossom any time, and we want to go until we’re absolutely sure it is gone.”
Lieutenant Governor and COVID-19 Liaison Dr. Josh Green said people shouldn’t panic if they recently went to the McDonalds.
“People who just had a brief encounter with someone selling food is not going to be at risk. Mostly what you worry about is if people weren’t masked and if people spent time in close proximity, that’s when risk occurs,” Green explained.
Green said that having some clusters pop up is not out of the ordinary, but wearing a mask and practicing social distancing will help prevent them. He added that once a cluster is identified, it needs to be dealt with swiftly.
“My biggest concern is that people go to the wind and are positive and then they start their own microcluster and then it goes out. So I worry that we don’t jump on it fast enough.”
With three days in a row of low numbers of new cases being reported in Hawaii, Green said we’re not out of the woods yet.
“We are seeing a slow down but these things can get out of control really fast. So that’s why you put these fires out the minute you see them.”
He said enhanced testing also helps to uncover cases linked to clusters, like what’s happening with the cluster at Maui Memorial Medical Center.
The number of cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center has doubled from 15 to 34 since it first was identified in mid-March.
“We’re going to still see some more cases come in from the Maui testing. We did about 1500 plus tests over there in and around the hospital and certainly around the individuals,” Green said.
Green said he is developing a group, called the ‘Red Team’ to respond to special cases swiftly.
“Their goal is to go and quickly put fires out. And we’ve named it the Red Team cause code red is what you say when you have a worry and it’s an easy way to remember it.”
Green said the Red Team was not deployed to handle the Big Island or Maui clusters, but as we get fewer cases and attempt to slowly resume normal life, he said he sees the Red Team as a response team that can help identify and handle flare-ups or single cases of coronavirus quickly.