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Another Positive Case, Kualapu’u School Closed

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

A second recent COVID-19 case was confirmed last Saturday, bringing the island’s total to four since the pandemic began. Kualapu’u School is closed for five days as a result of a student being exposed.

It was unclear as of Sunday whether the new case was connected to last week’s positive case.

Lydia Trinidad, principal of Kualapu’u School, wrote in a letter to the school community Saturday that at that time, that no students or staff at the school had tested positive.

“In light of the specific information available to us and out of caution, Kualapu’u School campus will be closed for at least five days, beginning Sunday, Aug. 31, and closed until Thursday, Sept 3,” Trinidad wrote. “During this time, the school will be cleaned and sanitized. A determination of school status after Sept. 3 will be made pending additional information.”

Dr. Lorrin Pang of the Dept. of Health’s Maui District Health Office said during contact tracing, a positive case will identify those with whom they had recent contact for 15 minutes or more within six feet, with or without a mask, with consideration to the positive individual’s infectious period. The infectious period is usually considered two days before getting sick and 10 days after the onset of illness, he said.

Those who are experiencing symptoms, at the directive of their doctor, or those identified as close contacts of a positive case, can be tested at the expense of the Dept. of Health. If you choose to get tested on your own, your health insurance may or may not pay, according to Pang.

“You can ask your doctor to decide but if you were not named as a significant contact by the case or don’t have symptoms, I am not sure if the Dept. of Health will pay,” Pang told Rep. Lynn DeCoite, in a post she shared on social media.

DeCoite advised those who believe they were in contact with a case but have not been contacted, to call the Maui Disease Investigation Branch (808)984-8213 and speak to a public health nurse. Molokai residents can also call the Molokai DOH office Public Health Nurse at (808) 553-7880, according to DeCoite.

Meanwhile, Oahu is under stay at home, work from home orders for two weeks that went into effect last Thursday, Aug. 27, where only essential workers and businesses were allowed to operate. The island began “surge testing” that seeks to administer 70,000 tests in 14 days, funded by the federal government in cooperation with state and county partners.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the current healthcare situation with facilities nearing capacity, particularly on Oahu, necessitated the strong order. “Staying at home will keep people alive,” he com-mented.

Maui County remains in the “Act with Care” phase allowing business to continue as usual, but health officials have expressed growing concerns that Maui County may experience a spike soon.

“This is how it starts,” said Green told Civil Beat. “Both counties [Hawaii and Maui] are at the risk of tipping into a cautionary yellow phase of spread.”

The yellow phase of virus spread is when more than five percent of tests in a community come back positive, he said. A five percent positive test rate is considered a high rate of infection, indicating the need for more testing, according to John Hopkins University.

The Maui District Health Office, the Hawaii National Guard and University of Hawaii Maui College are partnering to expand contact tracing capacity for the county. UH Maui College will provide its auditorium, two offices and parking spaces, along with phones, computers and access to facilities for contact tracing personnel and operations, according to the County of Maui.

Currently, Maui District Health Office has 24 staff and public health nurses to conduct contact tracing. The Hawaii National Guard has provided an additional 28 personnel to assist with investigations and have made over 700 calls in the past week. About a dozen contracted workers trained through UH will join the group beginning in early September, the County of Maui reported last Wednesday.

Unemployment across the state continues to be a challenge, and last week the state Dept. of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) reported that statewide, 180,254 valid unemployment insurance claims are currently awaiting DLIR action, while 275,621 claims have been filed statewide and 169,882 have already been paid. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a $193,933,095 grant to Hawaii to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 with an additional $300 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit, following a previous boost of $600 per week having been discontinued.

“While this new funding will provide some immediate help, it’s not enough for Hawaii families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Sen-ate Appropriations Committee. “We’ll continue working to secure more federal funding to help Hawaii get through this tough time.”

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