Hawaii Island sees spike in cases, Lanai prepares for stay-at-home order

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — There were 121 cases of coronavirus reported in the State of Hawaii on Sunday. Every island except for Molokai reported a new case.

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For the first time since the pandemic began, a neighbor island surpassed Oahu’s daily case number.

Hawaii Island reported 51 new cases, Oahu 49, 16 on Lanai, two on Maui, and one case on Kauai. The island of Lanai has been preparing for a stay-at-home order which could go into effect on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 12:01 a.m.

Lanai was the only island to be COVID-free since March, but that changed last week when four cases were reported on Oct. 21. As of Sunday, the Department of Health counted a total of 78 cases on the Pineapple Isle.

The small island has a population of about 3,000 and has very limited health care facilities.

“There’s still a lot of worry and concern,” explained Dr. John Janikowski, who is a family care physician at Straub Clinic Lanai. “We’ve done a lot of tests yesterday and even before. So, I think once people start getting their reports back and knowing where they stand, I think there’ll be some calming sense in the community.”

Dr. Janikowski and his wife Valerie, who is a nurse with Lanai Kinaole, said that the community is wearing masks and socially distancing. They said that many businesses have shut down ahead of the stay-at-home order to help keep the community safe.

“The people that have been positive have been fairly open and transparent. They’ve been cooperative. So, I think we’ve had a pretty good rapid handle on things in that regard,” Dr. Janikowski explained.

Both said that there are large families in multi-generational houses on Lanai and most are doing their best to isolate and quarantine.

Mass testing took place on Lanai since the cases first popped up last week.

“Most of the people have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic,” Dr. Janikowski explained. “There hasn’t been anyone who has required hospitalization yet, to my knowledge. But that has been somewhat of an issue for us because we do have some people that are positive, who are elderly, who have some comorbidities, and who are at risk to get sick and to get sick fast.”

Patients who need extra care will have to be flown to a facility on Maui or Oahu.

“We’ve tried to get some of our patients over to isolation in the larger cities so that if they do start deteriorating, they’ll be able to get care fast,” he explained.

However, many residents opted to shelter in place instead.

Dr. Janikowski said Lanai has 13 hospital beds and that 10 beds are currently in use by long-term care nursing home patients.

“So that leaves three beds. We’re a critical access hospital, so we have limited capability,” he explained.

He said there are no operating rooms, no CAT scans, one ventilator and one emergency room doctor on the island.

Including himself, there is one other family doctor and two nurse practitioners, “and that’s our usual island capacity for that level of medical personnel,” he said.

Dr. Janikowski said the rapid jump in cases, rather than a few cases being reported each day, is due to the community’s cooperation and stepping forward to get tested.

“People were cooperating and telling us who to check, and the people that were testing initially were those high-risk people. That’s why we got all of those positives, and we got him quickly,” he explained.  

He said about half the island has been tested so far. Other officials are encouraging the entire island to get tested.

“I think the other issue you’re looking at is people are concerned about their jobs,” explained Rep. Lynn DeCoite (D) Haiku, Hana, Nahiku, Lanai, Molokai. “How do we get paid? You know, we don’t get paid staying home … I think some of the workers at the Four Seasons, they’re very worried. I’ve heard some of them did not test yet, and I’m encouraging them to go in and test. The kits are there, there’s no reason not to. If everybody tests, and we can probably do another round of testing, and they’ll come back again in the next few days. You know, we can beat this if we work together,” she said.

The island of Lanai has received donations statewide.

“It’s just, it’s unbelievable, we have volunteers, people begging to volunteer to be able to deliver diapers and hand sanitizer and masks and anything people need,” said Valerie Janikowski.

She said going from no cases to almost 80 is a warning for everyone.

“It absolutely demonstrates how strong this virus is and how quickly and rapidly it can spread, absolutely,” she said.

Hawaii Island saw a spike in cases on Sunday as well.

“It’s really quite stunning to see the number on Big Island actually being larger than the number on Oahu,” explained Lieutenant Governor Josh Green. “There’s mostly community spread. It’s in different patches all across the island, and there’s some additional cases in Ocean View, where some of the Pacific Islander communities are getting hit pretty hard.”

He was told that most of the cases were due to small family gatherings. He said it’s imperative everyone wear masks statewide.

“I’m going to work hard this week to see if we can find a way to get a statewide mask mandate in place,” he said. “It’s in the emergency proclamation, but we need to simplify it so it’s easier for our police to enforce it quickly, so everyone wears a mask. That is the way to stop these kinds of outbreaks.”

He said neighbor islands like Lanai and the Big Island can expect to see a surge in cases this week.

“I would expect over the next five days to see the numbers on Lanai increase daily,” he said. “It’ll certainly get over 100. Let’s hope it doesn’t get too much higher than that.”

He too encourages everyone on the island to get tested.

“There’s always at least another equal number of cases somewhere behind the scenes when we see these outbreaks,” he said.

Rep. DeCoite and Lt. Gov. Green heard that some Lanai residents were going to other islands to avoid the stay-at-home order, which is a concern to many.

“I would say this to people, I’ve heard some stories of people trying to travel. It would be better if people just laid low, stayed home and not made trips elsewhere. Even though the lockdown’s not coming until Tuesday, we really need people to stay home and isolate until we figure out exactly where the cases are,” Lt. Gov. Green said.

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