KAUNAKAKAI, Hawaii (KHON2) — Four new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Molokai on Saturday, May 15, bringing the total number of cases on the island to 16 during the week of Monday, May 10.
It is a significant rise, considering the island only had 27 cases from the start of the pandemic until this recent outbreak.
The Department of Health (DOH) did not confirm if the four cases were linked to the cluster of 12 reported on Thursday, May 13.
Molokai has had a total of 43 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started in 2020, according to DOH. That is up from 39 in the last 24 hours.
Hiro’s Ohana Grill’s general manager Cameron Hiro says two of the new cases were employees at the restaurant, bringing the number infected there to three.
“At this time, we don’t know if it’s linked (to the cluster),” Hiro explained. “And we don’t really know how they actually got it.”
Hiro says one person was a waitress and the second was a worker with close contact to that employee.
The restaurant closed on Wednesday, May 12, after the first positive case was confirmed. Hiro says they will remain closed for the time being.
“The biggest concern, right now, is making sure that employees are taken care of and all of them that need to be tested, get tested,” Hiro said. “Our priority is the community.”
The cluster of 12 was linked to a construction project in the air conditioning system at Molokai General Hospital (MGH).
In a statement, MGH president Janice Kalanihuia said:
“The air handling system was disconnected and there was no air exchange between the work area and any parts of the hospital.”
She added that the infected workers did not have contact with patients at any time.
DOH officials say five in the cluster are construction workers and seven are household or social contacts.
The Department of Education confirmed at least two students at Kaunakakai Elementary tested positive. Molokai representative Lynn DeCoite says the two cases may be linked to the cluster.
Many fear the number of those infected will increase during the week of Monday, May 17.
The tight-knit Molokai community is on edge.
“There is some worry in the air,” Hiro said. “There, there are some concerns.”
Two of the biggest concerns: limited medical resources on the island and an impact to Mokulele Airlines since several of the contractors flew back and forth to Maui.
Mokulele Airlines chief of staff Keith Sisson says they are not too concerned at this point.
“Because of the protocols in place, we feel pretty good about this,” Sisson explained. “We did give the names and telephone numbers of the people that were on the flight to the Department of Health so they can do contact tracing and we’ve talked to our crew.”
Sisson says that the pilot was vaccinated and no Mokulele employees have tested positive as of Saturday, May 15.
Molokai General Hospital will be doing free COVID-19 testing for the community Tuesday, May 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.