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Hale Makua screening visitors to nursing facilities

Efforts underway to sanitize public buses, other county facilities

An elbow tap replaces a handshake for Seabury Hall golf coach Jake Grodzinsky and player Daniel Judge on Saturday during Maui Interscholastic League play between the Spartans and King Kekaulike at Maui Country Club. Grodzinsky was congratulating Judge after his tee shot on the par-three seventh hole settled 11 feet from the cup. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hale Makua was screening visitors to its Wailuku and Kahului nursing care facilities, and public buses were scrubbed down Monday as Maui County began taking precautions against the introduction and potential spread of the novel coronavirus.

Currently, there are no cases of COVID-19 on Maui; there were two cases on Oahu as of Monday evening.

At Hale Makua, visitors are being screened for illness, which includes checking temperatures. The screening began Friday.

Hale Makua also on Monday temporarily shut down its Adult Day Health program, in which seniors from outside the facility come for the day, said Chief Executive Officer Wesley Lo. Hale Makua is working on developing screening procedures for the program, noting many of the clients use public transportation.

Hale Makua Administrator Teana Kahoohanohano said that there is an average of 30 to 35 participants in the program that runs Monday through Friday. Regular participants were notified Friday of the temporary closure, Lo said.

Roberts Hawaii Maui Bus workers sanitize handrails, seats and other high-touch surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes inside a bus Monday afternoon. County of Maui / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Seniors are at greater risk for COVID-19, especially those with underlying health conditions. Older adults with underlying health issues should avoid nonessential travel, including cruises; avoid large crowds; wash their hands; and keep medications and groceries on hand.

Nursing homes are a particular focus; a Seattle-area long-term nursing center is considered the epicenter of one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19. Reuters reported Monday that the virus has killed at least 13 patients at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash.

Maui Bus and county officials also were taking precautions against the virus on Monday.

“Our county departments have tripled their efforts to keep our facilities and public transportation services sanitized for the health and safety of our community,” Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Monday. “Our directors have taken a comprehensive inventory and ordered additional resources in the event they are needed. Continuity of operations plans and emergency procedures have also been established for use by our personnel and local agency partners.”

He encouraged the community to remain calm and to “take special care of our seniors and those with serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.”

Roberts Hawaii, the operator of Maui Bus, had workers scrub down and sanitize public buses on Monday. Buses, including those used for paratransit, will be disinfected multiple times a day. Air conditioner filters will be replaced more frequently, county officials said.

At Kalana O Maui in Wailuku, county workers continued to sanitize elevator buttons, payment counters and chairs and tables.

Late Monday afternoon, the state Department of Health said the number of presumptive positive cases in Hawaii, both on Oahu, remained at two.

The second presumptive case involved an elderly person, who visited Washington state and felt ill on March 2. The individual traveled home to Honolulu from Seattle on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 21 on Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been notified and trace-back investigations are being conducted, the DOH said in announcing the second case on Sunday. The individual is hospitalized in serious condition.

Hawaiian Airlines said Monday that it has reached out to crew on the flight and agents who supported the flight “to make sure they are healthy and supported.”

Since being informed by the CDC that the passenger was on their flight, the airline said “we are cooperating with public health agencies to support notification of passengers as the CDC deems necessary.”

In addition, the airline said that the aircraft was “thoroughly sanitized upon arrival by a team of 16 cleaners, who utilized disinfectants that effectively kill most viruses, including COVID-19.”

The first presumptive positive case was announced Friday and involved a person who was on the Grand Princess for a Feb. 11 to 21 cruise in Mexico. After arriving in Mexico, the person, who showed no symptoms, traveled back to Oahu and became ill March 1.

The person sought medical care and was tested on Friday. The individual is isolated at home and is being monitored by the Health Department.

Both cases are considered presumptive because while testing positive in Hawaii, it is the CDC that makes the final determination. State health officials, though, consider the individuals who test positive as having the disease.

There were four other people awaiting test results as of late Monday afternoon, the Health Department said. As of Monday, 15 people have tested negative for the virus.

Sixty-two people are self-monitoring in Hawaii with four on Maui. The Maui number of self-monitoring cases has not changed since Friday.

At Hale Makua Kahului, visitors encounter a tent in the driveway of its main entrance off Kaulana Street. Visitors are asked if they have traveled recently to high risk countries and if they have respiratory or flulike symptoms. Their temperature also is taken.

Cleared visitors are given a sticker to wear to notify staff that the person has been screened.

Two visitors have been turned away in Kahului so far, because they had temperatures above 100 degrees, Kahoohanohano said. Officials noted that the care home only is screening for symptoms and does not conduct COVID-19 tests.

Because of the screening, visiting hours will remain fluid, Lo said. The Kahului facility’s visiting hours tentatively are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m; the Wailuku facility’s hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We don’t have it wired. This is a work in progress,” Lo said. “We appreciate the community’s patience while we do this. It is for our vulnerable population.”

Staff, including Lo, get screened for illness prior to entering Hale Makua facilities.

Officials at Hale Mahaolu, which provides affordable senior and family housing, said that they are working on communicating with residents, offering reminders every day of preventative actions, such as hand-washing and not touching eyes, noses and mouths, as advised by the county, Health Department and CDC.

They will continue to monitor the situation and keep staff and residents informed, Hale Mahaolu officials said.

At Maui Adult Day Care Centers’ five facilities, hours have not changed, according its website. The centers will be taking temperatures of clients when they arrive and during the day. Center officials also ask that caretakers and family members take the temperature of their loved ones daily before coming to the facilities.

If a person is found to be ill, the centers ask that other arrangements be made for care.

In other COVID-19 developments in Hawaii on Monday:

• Two Maui residents were appointed to the 26-member Select House Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness. The Maui residents appointed by Speaker Scott Saiki are Rep. Kyle Yamashita and Maui Chamber of Commerce President Pamela Tumpap. The committee will identify potential economic and financial impacts to the state and develop short-term and long-term mitigation plans. Saiki and Bank of Hawaii President Peter Ho will serve as co-chairmen.

• Kahului Airport officials have tripled their orders of sanitation materials and posted informational flyers throughout the airport, including restrooms and terminals. Additional hand-sanitizing dispensers have been installed for workers and passengers. The airport also has hired a safety management system manager and has been working with restaurants and other vendors to increase cleaning efforts.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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