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Hospital cluster grows to 41

Third Hale Makua client tests positive

Maui Memorial Medical Center’s coronavirus cluster swelled to 41 people Thursday, and a third Hale Makua Health Services client, exposed to the cluster, tested positive for the virus after being discharged from the hospital.

Hale Makua, a nursing home and home health care agency, now has three COVID-19 cases, all linked to the Maui Memorial cluster. All three had been discharged earlier this month from Maui Memorial, where state health officials said a main cluster of 15 infected workers and eight patients began in mid-March.

The cluster grew to 41 cases — 26 staff, 14 patients and one undetermined — the state Department of Health reported Thursday. Tests on 195 health care workers and 93 patients have been performed as part of the investigation.

“While test results for possible new exposures are pending, DOH confirms that the implementation of extensive infection control measures throughout MMMC reduces concerns for new transmissions events at the facility,” the department said in a statement Thursday.

The latest Hale Makua case involved an asymptomatic home care patient, who remained in quarantine, according to Wesley Lo, Hale Makua chief executive officer. Several staff members treated the home care patient and are on 14-day quarantine while they await test results, he added.

Hale Makua’s other two cases include one home health care patient, who was recently released by state officials from quarantine, and one asymptomatic Kahului nursing home resident, who is currently in isolation.

The nursing home resident was one of six identified over the weekend by state health officials as having contact with the hospital cluster. All six have been retested for the coronavirus; in addition to the one positive case, there was a negative result and four still pending.

The first round of testing was initiated by Hale Makua after April 8 when news of the hospital cluster was released. Infections at nursing homes across the country have resulted in many deaths with the elderly and health-compromised at high risk to the virus.

Wednesday’s COVID-19 positive test for the nursing home resident triggered testing of more than 80 Hale Makua staff and 30 residents, nursing home officials had told The Maui News. Results were pending Thursday.

Hale Makua’s Kahului facility has 218 residents.

During a county media update Thursday, Lo commended Hale Makua staff for following federal and state pandemic guidelines before the cases emerged.

“We have taken it super seriously over the last few months,” Lo said. “I think you guys may know, we were the first to start screening in early March. Unfortunately, we had to stop visitors but that seems to have been a positive thing for us. We’ve followed protocols from CDC and DOH to the T.”

Meanwhile, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said that there are signs of hope ahead. While the coronavirus positive results continue to mount for Maui County and the state, they’re rising slowly, he said. In the next week, the county and state should have a better idea about whether the cases have peaked.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to show up,” he said during the news conference.

Maui County had three new cases of coronavirus as of noon Thursday, increasing the county total to 95 cases.

The state had 11 new cases to reach 541. Four of the cases were on Oahu, which had 373 cases, and five cases were pending residency. The Big Island remained at 41 cases and Kauai, at 21.

The majority of Maui’s cases are residents from Central Maui and West Maui ZIP codes, with 11 to 20 cases in each area, a DOH mapping of cases showed Thursday. South Maui and the Makawao-Pukalani-Haiku-Haliimaile-Olinda region each had six to 10 cases. The remaining ZIP codes on Maui each had one to five cases on the color-coded map.

The Kaunakakai-Ualapue ZIP code on Molokai had two cases.

In other coronavirus-related developments:

• About 100 bags of fresh produce (one per vehicle) will be given away to Lanai residents starting at 2 p.m. today at Lanai Senior Center. Residents should enter at Gay Street.

• Hana drive-thru testing, led by Dr. Chad Meyer, will be held today at Hana Ball Park. Testing from 8 to 9 a.m. will be for essential workers only (police officers, firefighters, medics, health clinic personnel, Maui Economic Opportunity staff) and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the general public.

• More than 500 bags of food were distributed Thursday to West Maui residents in need with the help of VIP Foodservice, Mahi Pono, Matson, Safety Systems, Miyake Concrete, Maui Disposal, Maui Lani golf and the state Department of Transportation.

• About 250 people were tested Thursday at Keopuolani Park.

• About 95 people were tested Thursday at Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokai.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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