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Testing Implemented, National Guard Requested

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Molokai positive COVID-19 cases remained at two as of Sunday, with no additional cases officially confirmed by the Dept. of Health following a large testing event last week. Statewide, the confirmed case count rose to 499 as of Sunday, with nine deaths linked to COVID-19 in Hawaii.

Last week Tuesday, Dr. Scott Miscovich and Dr. Kaohimanu Akiona brought more than a dozen medical staff to do a drive thru COVID-19 screening and testing event at Mitchell Pauole Center for Molokai residents. They brought nearly 500 tests available on a first-come first served basis, and completed a second testing event this week Tuesday.

Individuals who are tested are required to quarantine for 14 days following the test, but essential workers are permitted to return to work as long as they aren’t showing symptoms, said Akiona in a live question and answer session with Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez.

Residents will receive a call with their test result.

“Positive isn’t the end of the word,” said Akiona. “Having the virus isn’t a death sentence… in fact 80 percent of people don’t get that sick… If you didn’t know you were sick then you wouldn’t alter your behavior. The whole point of the positive test is to figure out where the virus is and who is affected… so we can as much as possible manage it in the community… and try to guide your behavior so we prevent further infection.”

She said the “point is to support you, not punish you,” in an attempt to keep patients out of the hospital to quarantine at home while keeping others safe, in the case of positive results.

And if you test negative, it’s not “an all clear,” reminded Akiona.

“Just because you get tested [negative], it doesn’t clear you later today or tomorrow, you can still get the virus,” said Rawlins-Fernandez.

“I want to deeply thank Lt. Gov. Green and Dr. Miscovich for stepping up to provide these test kits,” said Mayor Michael Victorino. “We appreciate their quick response to the needs of our Molokai residents as we face this pandemic together.”

Molokai General Hospital and Molokai Community Health Center continue to offer screening and testing on island.

On Saturday, Rep. Lynn DeCoite and Sen. Kalani English wrote Gov. David Ige requesting the mobilization and deployment of the Hawaii National Guard to Molokai, as well as the communities of East Maui, Hana and Lanai.

“Deployment of the Hawaii National Guard will be beneficial in helping the County of Maui
enforce travel restrictions in and out of these areas, enhance community policing efforts and
maintain law and order,” they wrote.

DeCoite said they would support Molokai’s police in ensuring the safety and security of residents, some of whom requested the Guard’s presence, she said.

“We have received many requests from community members and kupuna for this increased support,” said English in a Facebook post on his page. “I want to be clear that this is not an effort to militarize the National Guard or to declare martial law, it’s simply an effort to ensure that the proper policies are being enforced to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in our rural communities.”

But many social media users expressed opposition.

“This is what overreaction looks like. I believe that this is a bad idea,” wrote one resident.

“Respectfully, and knowing it was done with good intentions… ‘No,’ as a member of the Molokai community, I definitely do not want nor do I see the need for the military’s ‘help,’” wrote another. “Asking to deploy military enforcement on these native communities is like throwing gas on a fire. These communities are stressed enough and yet handling everything with kapu aloha and living pono.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Victorino implemented a night curfew pilot program last weekend. Maui County residents were not permitted travel outside the home during the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This excluded essential travel such as medical needs, essential work and emergency responders.

“The health and safety of our community is top priority, especially over the holiday weekend,” Mayor Victorino said. “These are difficult times for all of us and we’re doing everything in our power to stop the spread of COVID-19. We will evaluate the effectiveness of this curfew after this weekend and will continue to make policy changes as needed.”

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