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Kalauapa Gets First Case, 3 More for Topside Molokai

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Kalaupapa recorded its first COVID-19 case last week, after being reportedly the last county in the U.S. without the virus. Separately, Molokai had three additional positive cases, bringing the island’s total to 22 since the pandemic began, not including the Kalaupapa case.

On Dec. 8, the Dept. of Health reported the three Molokai cases today as household contacts. One person had travel history, but it is unclear whether the transmission of the virus was from the traveler of as a result of community spread. The investigation is ongoing as of last week, according to the DOH.

In the Kalaupapa case, the individual received their positive test result after returning on a local flight to the Kalaupapa settlement and was in self-isolation with no symptoms, the DOH reported on Dec. 10. The DOH immediately conducted contact tracing, and close contacts on the same flight are in self-quarantine. As of that time, the individual and all recent close contacts are asymptomatic and being monitored for the development of any COVID-19 symptoms, stated the DOH in a release last week.

“Everyone here recognizes the importance of the 14-day quarantine protocol to assist in protecting themselves, friends, family and the broader Kalaupapa community,” said Ken Seamon, DOH administrator of Kalaupapa settlement. “The affected individuals are being provided with necessary daily living support, guidance and any assistance required should COVID-19 symptoms develop.”

Working in coordination with the National Park Service, the DOH offered support for those in isolation. NPS’s Miki’ala Pescaia said DOH set the policies and protocols around the settlement’s COVID prevention and response.

“The NPS has provided telework opportunities for any eligible staff and granted administrative leave for those whose work cannot be carried out remotely or who are self-identified as vulnerable,” she said. “Our essential service providers observe strict protocols that have been in place since March and continue to provide adequate safety in the workplace while we meet the critical needs of our community.”

Seamon said the individual who tested positive “did the right thing” in notifying leadership of their positive test result.

“We believe we can contain the virus here without a stay-at-home order for the entire settlement,” he said.

Gov. David Ige announced last week that the state is preparing to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine to 81,000 people in Hawaii this month. The December vaccination schedule targets high-risk
health care workers and long-term care facilities across the state. Health officials are awaiting final approval and guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before administering the doses, with more vaccines to come in 2021.

“This pandemic has cost Hawaii residents so much—the lives of loved ones, our health, and our economic security,” said Gov. Ige. “The recommendation by the FDA panel to approve the Pfizer vaccine is a vital step in keeping our situation from becoming worse and beginning our road to recovery. Once final approval is granted, I am confident in DOH’s ability to distribute vaccines across Hawaii.”

Meanwhile, bars in Maui County are closed for two weeks, until Dec. 26, due to recent double-digit increases in COVID-19 cases.

“The Maui District Health Office reported that numerous positive cases are tied to close interactions among patrons in bar settings, and we need to take action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Mayor Michael Victorino said. “This is an initial step. We will continue to closely monitor daily case counts, identify sources of spread and take further action as necessary to protect the health and safety of our residents.”

This rule temporarily closes bars and bar service areas within restaurants, although establishments with certified commercial kitchens may serve alcoholic drinks and food in dining areas. This means both Hotel Molokai and Paddlers Restaurant may remain open, but with closed bar areas.

Maui County’s revised Public Health Emergency rules also require restaurant/bar patrons to wear face masks/facial coverings, except when actively eating or drinking. Employees must still wear facial coverings at all times.

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