Mayor Caldwell says no known COVID-19 cases linked to an employee retirement party

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said they investigated details surrounding a retirement party in late July on municipal grounds after Hawaii state officials said an employee gathering or potluck had the potential to transmit the illness to 11 city and county workers.

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Caldwell said there are no known positive cases connected to the retirement gathering on July 24. He said it is the largest gathering he knows about on city property but he said it does not seem to be the source driving the cluster of cases at Honolulu Hale.

“I learned of this one party and then followed up and found out there are no positives from that party and that they were outside, so I think it was more anecdotal,” Caldwell said. “But we are not denying that there are gatherings of people in lunchrooms or other places where they are not practicing physical distancing or mask-wearing.”  

Caldwell said about 25 to 30 employees attended the retirement potluck but they did not gather for long. Employees picked up food outside and kept on with their day. He said employees wore masks and kept a physical distance.

Late Wednesday afternoon the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center removed any reference to the potluck from its updated news release, but still maintains that an employee gathering or potluck could be the source of transmission.

The mayor said he does know of employee gatherings happening inside conference rooms or other places inside the city hall, which goes against his COVID-19 emergency orders. He said at this point they are not able to confirm if employees became sick from those informal gatherings.

Caldwell said, “Because of what we do know about these gatherings in lunchrooms and other places, for me, it means we got to do everything possible, and perhaps it did occur in these environments and they need to stop, and hopefully they have.”

Honolulu Council Chair Ikaika Anderson said he does not approve of gatherings by city staff, but he also expressed the need to be proactive and improve contact tracing. He urges state officials to accept the help they have offered.

Anderson said, “How about taking the city up on our offer to perform contact tracing training by hiring unemployed here on Oahu to do some contact tracing. The city and county has offered to utilize federal money that we’ve received through the CARES Act.”

So far, 11 COVID-19 positive cases are known within Honolulu Hale. Nearly 500 workers were tested on Monday, Caldwell said he expects more positives.

Caldwell said, “We are waiting to get all of the results, and when we do get them we will report them to you, we do know that we have seen one or two positive from the test so far.”  

Dr. Scott Miscovich who was tapped to carryout testing at Honolulu Hale said this is not an isolated issue. He said other facilities are also being affected by the spread of the virus.

“I’m sitting here outside the Board of Water Supply, which is doing testing because they’ve had positives,” Miscovich said. “We’re heading to other places like nursing homes. Everyone has positives, because the disease is so widespread, community spread.”

Caldwell said they will release an updated count of COVID-19 positive cases once they receive all of the test results.

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