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New HI Case Record, Molokai Hospital Prepared

Graph courtesy of County of Maui

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

The state reached a new record last Thursday with 355 new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day. On Maui, 71 cases have been reported in the last 30 days, as of last Friday, and county officials expect that number to grow. Molokai confirmed cases remain at two.

“We would like to commend the community on their efforts to keep us COVID-19 free,” said Janice Kalanihuia, president of Molokai General Hospital. “We know it has been a long five months, but now is not the time to let our guard down. There have been a lot of visitors from other islands to Molokai over the past month so it is best for us to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, keep socially distant and wear a mask when out in public. If you take your mask off to eat or drink, please stay at least six feet away from others. We need to get back to where we were in May, with few positives and few hospitalizations, otherwise we are in for a fall and winter in lock-down.”

With hospitals on Oahu close to reaching capacity with the high volume of coronavirus cases on that island, some have expressed concern that it could affect care for Molokai residents being flown out for medical emergencies.

But Kalanihuia assured patients in need would still be well-cared for.

“All four [Queen’s] hospitals [across the state, of which Molokai General is one] have plans in place to provide quality health care services to all of the people of Hawaii during this critical time,” she said. As for Molokai patients being flown out, “it is business as usual. They have a plan to be able to balance COVID-19 patients with the other healthcare needs of the State of Hawaii as a whole. I have full faith in them.”

Kalanihuia said testing at Molokai General is still being provided “although the demand has not been great.”

If anyone on Molokai does get confirmed positive, the hospital is ready to provide care.

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“As with early in the pandemic, all Molokai COVID-19 patients with symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization will be sent to The Queens Medical Center /Punchbowl for care,” said Kalanihuia. “Patients able to be discharged home will be sent home with quarantine information. We are able to admit to MGH negative pressure rooms COVID-19 patients needing oxygen to relieve symptoms and have the capacity to intubate and care for intubated patients if that care is needed.”

With the interisland travel quarantine in effect as of last week, those requiring essential travel are instructed to visit MauiCounty.gov to complete the Mandatory Travel Declaration Form. To request a medical or essential work exemption, email travelexemptions@mauicounty.gov.

“This process is a little different than before because now the counties are doing the enforcement,” said Rep. Lynn DeCoite on social media. “The exemptions are being handled by the county that you are traveling to/returning to (with the exception of Oahu).”

Officials acknowledged the travel quarantine is confusing this time around.
“It is going to take time to work out all of the kinks and procedures for this new interisland travel system, so we’re asking for everyone’s patience and help to make this a success,” Mayor Michael Victorino said. “We continue to discourage any non-essential travel at this time, but if you do need to travel, make sure to visit the County of Maui’s website to complete all the necessary forms. This will help with the speed and efficiency of our airports and harbors.”

With tremendous spikes in cases across the state, the Dept. of Health has touted its capacity for contact tracing, an essential tool to combat the spread of COVID-19 by investigating all those in known contact with a contagious person. However, the state has received widespread criticism of its contact tracing program, including from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She was joined last week in a press conference by several medical experts, including a whistleblower from the DOH, “exposing the lies coming from the Department of Health leadership regarding contact tracing efforts in Hawaii,” according a Gabbard press release.

While DOH has claimed hundreds of contact tracers are at the ready, “…the whistleblower revealed that in fact there were less than 20 people statewide conducting contact tracing, and that they are extremely overwhelmed and unable to conduct contact tracing for many of the positive cases in the state,” stated Gabbard.

She joined other officials in calling for a change in state leadership and immediate expansion of contact tracing and testing capabilities, along with oversight of the state’s COVID-19 response.

“…Over $50 million in federal funding awarded to the state to improve testing and contact tracing, appears to have been misspent or gone unused,” claimed Gabbard.


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