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Cases Continue to Rise, Majority Have Mild Symptoms

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Molokai had a new single-day high COVID count record of 42 cases last week on Jan. 18. The island had 184 new cases last week alone between Friday, Jan. 14 and Friday, Jan. 21, according to Dept. of Health data last Sunday. Recent cases on island haven’t caused much increase in emergency room visits, however, according to Molokai General Hospital. 

“We have not had a significant uptick in people visiting the Emergency Dept. with COVID symptoms, thank goodness, and those we have seen, have not had symptoms serious enough to ship out,” said Janice Kalanihuia, president of Molokai General Hospital, on Friday. “It seems the symptoms are milder than in the past and that bears out by the number of ‘incidental’ positive COVID tests we see.”

She described incidental cases as people who visit the emergency room for a non-COVID-related condition but test positive for COVID during a routine test.

“The message I would give the community is to get fully vaccinated – and that means with a booster,” Kalanihuia added. “It is clear that COVID symptoms are generally milder and hospitalization less likely if you are vaccinated and boosted.”

Mayor Michael Victorino said last week that Maui County hospitals are near capacity, however. Citing this information, he moved forward to implement the County’s revised Public Health Emergency Rules, going into effect on Monday, Jan. 24. The revised rules require proof of a booster shot in addition to full vaccination for dining indoors at a restaurant or bar, or to exercise inside of a gym to confirm patrons are “up to date” with their COVID vaccination. The rules, originally slated to go into effect on Jan. 8, had delayed implementation to give eligible adolescents and others sufficient time to get booster shots, according to Victorino. 

“After speaking with leadership from Maui, Molokai, and Lanai hospitals, it’s evident that our healthcare facilities are at a tipping point,” Victorino said Friday. “If Omicron continues to spread at the current rate, our hospitals will be forced to implement emergency procedures. We can’t send patients to Oahu or other islands, so booster shots, masks and physical distancing are more important than ever in high-risk venues like bars, restaurants and gyms.”

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service launched a program to mail free COVID at-home test kits to residents. Each residential address can sign up to receive one order, which includes four rapid antigen tests. Orders will start shipping free of charge in late January. Visit special.usps.com/testkits to order a test kit.

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