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Molokai Up 3 New Cases Last Week

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

After a surge of cases the previous week, Molokai had three new COVID-19 positives last week — two logged on Monday, Sept. 14 and one on Friday, bringing the island’s total to 16 since the pandemic began.

Requests have been made to the Dept. of Health to separate Molokai’s case count by total cases versus active cases but that breakdown is not yet available as of press deadline Sunday. Rep. Lynn DeCoite said the DOH told her “they are working on that” and should have it updated this week.

DeCoite said to her knowledge, none of the recent Molokai cases have required hospitalization.

Meanwhile, statewide daily case numbers have slowed, averaging around 100 cases per day in the last week.

Gov. David Ige announced last week that a pre-testing program for travel to Hawaii would begin Oct. 15, after several delays.

The program will give travelers the option of possibly avoiding 14-day-long quarantine upon arrival to the state through proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. State officials said this is viewed as one of the key measures for revitalizing Hawaii’s visitor-centric economy, while providing protection for the spread of COVID-19. A negative test would need to be taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to their flight to Hawaii, and the only qualifying tests are FDA-approved NAAT tests, processed by a CLIA-certified laboratory. Testing would be done at the travelers’ expense.

Whether or not they have opted for the pre-test, all travelers are required to have temperature checked and complete a health and extensive travel questionnaire. Visit hawaiicovid19.com for more information.

The interisland quarantine for anyone arriving on any island other than Oahu continues through Oct. 15 unless terminated early or extended by a separate emergency proclamation.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, DOH Maui County health officer, warned in a Friday Maui County press conference that mainland travel will inevitably bring another virus surge.

“The time has come that… Maui is going to have to open up the economy, the schools, the gyms, the beaches, and soon, we want to open up to visitors from the mainland,” he said. “You know when we do this, we’re going to have more and more cases — you can’t help but have more cases — and the cases are going to spread from the visitors quickly to our community.”

Though the county is discussing the use of “resort bubbles” on Maui which would seek to contain COVID-19 spread by confining visitors to specified geographic areas within the resort, Pang said there’s no way around the infection multiplying “in a flash.”

“Workers in the tourist industry… are going to get infected, maybe have symptoms or not, and they’re going to take it home to their family or their spouse, and their children will infect the schools, and their spouses will infect wherever they work… and it will occur in a flash,” said Pang.

Along with contact tracing, increased testing is one of the biggest ways to combat the spread, Pang said in his discussion of the types and quantity of tests available and the importance of the county having enough tests of the right type at the ready.

He also cautioned that COVID-19 is so challenging because in many cases, it can be spread before a test can pick up its presence in your body.

“You’re infectious to others before you get sick…. About 40 to 50 percent of the infections occur before people get sick, that’s why we have this problem,” he said.

In the meantime, elected officials are working to obtain more quarantine sites for Molokai residents who are not able to isolate in their homes. Two weeks ago, Mayor Victorino discussed sending small pallet room units to the island to serve as isolation units. Hotel Molokai and local condo units are not currently approved as quarantine locations, said DeCoite. After reaching out to several state and county officials for further information, the Dispatch did not receive any responses by press deadline on Sunday.

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