26 infected in emerging COVID-19 outbreak at the University of the Nations Kona

Coronavirus

KONA, Hawaii (KHON2) — The University of the Nations in Kailua-Kona is now up to 26 cases of COVID-19 after 16 cases were reported by the Department of Health on Oct. 3.

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Although nobody from the cluster was hospitalized, officials at the small Christian university say that they’re trying to stop the spread to save Hawaii Island’s finite medical resources.

Staff members at the UofNK were the first to be infected with the virus.

“We were alerted that some of our staff had been at an event where there was an infected person,” said university spokesperson Johnny Gillepsie.

The University of the Nations says that they began contact tracing through the medical teams that they have on campus and isolated those connected and have since worked with the Department of Health contact tracers.

Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green says that mask wearing has been an issue.

“It sounds like they had an outbreak,” Lt. Gov. Green said. “It’s usually a lot of young people that are essentially mission driven, very sweet people. But I could imagine that a lot of people were not wearing masks and that outbreak there will cause a lot of extra cases.”

The University of the Nations says that they have held all classes online since September, and students have followed the state’s 14-day quarantine rules.

(Courtesy of the University of the Nations)

Four positive cases were found upon arrival and immediately isolated.

“We communicated with all of our students before they came about the reality of the situation and how strict we were going to be with our quarantines,” said Gillespie.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s office asked the school to increase its stay at home alert. All campus residents including staff will isolate.

“Our staff community has been the one that’s been affected by the community spread here from Kona, so we are doing our best to mitigate the risk from quarantining, contact tracing, isolation of any infected people and we believe it’s going to be effective,” said Gillespie.

Lt. Gov. Green says that as of now, the hospital situation in Kona is stable.

“The good news is it has not translated into any hospitalizations. We have only three people in all of Kona that are hospitalized right now, that number has been somewhere between one and three for the last three weeks,” said Lt. Gov. Green. “Young people have not needed hospitalization. But of course, if there’s an outbreak to a long-term care facility or to others in the community, it will be tough. That’s why the number was high in Kona (on Saturday).”

According to the Department of Health, there are currently 177 active cases of COVID-19 on Hawaii Island.

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