Maui and Hawaii island virus cases linked to known clusters continue to grow, mayors take what-and-see approach

Coronavirus

MAUI (KHON2) — Health officials raise concerns regarding the growing number of virus cases on Maui and Hawaii Island linked to gatherings. Both counties have seen an increase to known clusters in recent days.

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Maui and Hawaii County have seen positive cases of COVID-19 continuing to grow.

Since Aug. 11, Maui county logged 124 positive cases out of the 308 total cases they’ve had since the start of the pandemic.

Hawaii Island has had 121 positives in that same time-frame, of the 243 total cases there.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “Along with our county partners, we are closely monitoring these trends. We have concerns that ongoing gatherings, especially with inconsistent mask use or distancing, are contributing.”

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said one of the main concerns is whether Maui and Hawaii hospitals can handle those who may need care.

“It’s a concern because we saw what happened on Oahu, and it only took 40 days to get to a place where we had capacity issues at our hospitals. On the neighbor islands, where I often work on weekends, we have far less capacity,” Green explained.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said he is aware of a large funeral service that took place on Hawaii Island, but he said that he is not concerned with whether it caused the surge. The Department of Health said that 500 people have been tested in connection with that gathering.

“It’s really hard to determine what the starting point is because you’re down to the second, third generation of the original…When I was asked where the cluster is, quite frankly, I told them the cluster is the city of Hilo,” Kim said.

Kim is concentrating more of his efforts on preventing further spread.

He said he is beefing up testing in Hilo, he’s having police focus on enforcing existing rules limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people, and he had public areas in Hilo disinfected on Aug. 26.

“We have two disinfecting groups. One does all the spraying of our beach parks, benches, sidewalks, and you name it. The other is a vogging of certain enclosed areas,” Kim said.

On Maui, most of the recent cases are linked to two clusters. The first cluster is at Maui Memorial Hospital and has at least 66 cases, while the other has been traced to an assisted living facility with 20 known cases.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said he isn’t too worried about the numbers right now, but admits he’d prefer if they were lower.

“We’re at a good place right now. There’s no real urgency because these outbreaks are in confined areas like the health care and the long-term care facilities, they’re not coming out of gatherings.”

Victorino said he is paying close attention to beaches and parks to make sure people aren’t gathering.

“Most are doing physical distancing. They’re not popping tents up. They’re really trying to obey the rules so that we don’t have to step back. We don’t want to be like Oahu.”

Victorino said that he will continue to monitor the tests and positive cases.

“If we see something start to increase again further, we would definitely pull back and definitely agree to put in some of our stricter rules if necessary.”

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