Molokai leaders anticipate an increase in COVID cases this week

Coronavirus

Molokai has reported 11 cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

The Friendly Isle reported only two cases throughout the pandemic, after a resident returned from Las Vegas in April and spread the virus to his spouse.

Leaders and residents on Molokai say they’re concerned because the virus is spreading across the island.

“It is spreading and we are recognizing that people are feeling sick and have some respiratory issues,” explained State Rep. Lynn Decoite (D) Haiku, Nahiku, Lanai, Molokai.

She said residents are frustrated because people who are supposed to be quarantining themselves are not.

“I know there are some people who are not testing and were exposed and are asymptomatic,” explained Maui County Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who represents and lives on Molokai. “And so, what we’re seeing is more spread among residents.”

She said there are cases being spread in people who live in multi-generational houses, some who are homeless, or who stay with friends.

“The police are taking on the burden to follow up on those who are not quarantining. But when people have nowhere to go, then what?” she said.

Rep. DeCoite and Rawlins-Fernandez said Molokai doesn’t have the option of quarantine hotels like Oahu does and the island has limited resources.  

She hopes to work with the local hospital to figure out an isolation area.

Councilwoman Rawlins-Fernandez said she hopes pallet units, which are currently located on the island of Maui, can be sent to Molokai for people to isolate.

“There are nine units currently in storage that could be sent to Molokai to be used for that purpose,” she said.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said the recent uptick in cases is due to community spread and he will do everything he can to help the residents on Molokai. “I’m now putting together a quarantine, we’ll look at a couple of locations and have something online or even if we need to bring in other facilities like the portable housing we built here in Maui County, if I need to do that, and I would ship them over there and then try to assemble them and have some quarantine facilities to help people get those who cannot quarantine alone,” Victorino said.

Last week Wednesday, mass testing was administered on Molokai. DeCoite said about 270 residents were tested and are still waiting on other results.

On Friday, a staff member who works in the cafeteria at Molokai High School tested positive for Covid-19.

DeCoite said the cafeteria will remain closed, but they have hired a contracted caterer to make meals for students who receive breakfast and lunch through the school.

DeCoite said the tests they are waiting on had to be sent to the mainland, but unfortunately anticipates to hear of more cases in the coming days.

“We’re expected actually to have a few more, I’m hoping that’s not correct,” she said.

“I’m still concerned that I see some of those that are close to those that are confirmed [positive],” she said. “They are starting to get sick. And it’s what I’m hearing from other family members.”

Mayor Victorino said he is planning for another round of free testing to take place on Molokai on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

DeCoite said the message of free testing needs to be more clear or residents will hesitate or not want to get tested which could be harmful to the Molokai community.

To date, none of the current cases on Molokai have required hospitalization. The hospital on Molokai only has about two dozen beds.

Rawlins-Fernandez said any resident who requires additional medical care, like a ventilator, would have to be flown to Oahu.

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