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BREAKING: Merriman’s confirms COVID-19 cases reported by DOH

Sara Hauptman, Maui District public health educator, on Wednesday discusses three coronavirus cases linked to a restaurant "over a month ago."

Three coronavirus cases tied to Merriman’s in Kapalua had about 65 people potentially exposed to the virus in an incident that has since been deemed too small to be a cluster and a “very low” risk to public health, state health officials said Wednesday.

The fine dining restaurant, with additional locations on Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island, confirmed Wednesday night that its Kapalua establishment was linked to three coronavirus cases weeks ago.

Officials clarified Wednesday afternoon during a county media update that Maui District office’s leader Dr. Lorrin Pang on Tuesday mistakenly said there were 65 confirmed COVID-19 cases tied to a Maui restaurant cluster “a while ago.”

“I apologize I confused confirmed cases with contacts,” Pang said Wednesday. “To me, they’re treated the same and you try to isolate the same.”

Sara Hauptman, Maui District public health educator, said that the name of the restaurant will not be disclosed because epidemiologists have determined that the three positives did not pose a high risk to public health.

“It’s a very low, nearly nonexistent risk to public health,” she said. “So we determined that we would not like to release the name of the establishment.”

However, Merriman’s confirmed the connection around 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Pang on Wednesday said that sit-down dining restaurant had converted to takeout drive-thru when the investigation occurred. The restaurant was then asked to shut down, which it did, and to notify employees or customers who may have been exposed to self-quarantine for 14 days. It was with quarantine efforts that the incident “burned itself out,” he said.

Hauptman on Wednesday said the three cases are too few to be deemed a cluster, which she defined as several cases from one source point, such as ones at Maui Memorial Medical Center on Maui or at McDonald’s on the Big Island.

Maui Memorial Medical Center’s outbreak began in mid-March and reached 15 cases when it was reported April 8 as a cluster.

When asked why the cases tied to the restaurant had not been disclosed earlier, Hauptman said that the incident had proven not to warrant public concern.

“At this point in time in considering that those three positives from the one restaurant establishment is over a month old at this point, and we do not want the public to be concerned about it that at all because it has been thoroughly investigated and determined to not be a cluster,” she said.

Pang on Wednesday said he was discussing the restaurant Tuesday in the context of “outbreaks and different kinds of outbreaks.”

There were six new Hawaii COVID-19 cases (no new in Maui County), bringing the total to 592 as of noon Wednesday, according to the state Department of Health.

The new cases include three in Honolulu County, now at 388, and three in Hawaii County, now at 67.

Maui County remained at 110, and Kauai County stayed at 21.

Deaths remain at 12, seven on Oahu and five on Maui.

Out of the reported coronavirus cases, 63 individuals needed hospitalization and 444 have been released from isolation.

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