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UPDATE: 16 tested after Kula Hospital employee comes down with virus

Hawaii state Department of Health microbiologist Mark Nagata demonstrates the process for testing a sample for coronavirus at the department's laboratory in Pearl City, Oahu, recently. AP photo / Audrey McAvoy

A total of 16 people who were believed to have been exposed to a worker with COVID-19 at Kula Hospital have been tested for the virus, according to a state official.

State Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said Tuesday that 15 of those tests have come back negative, while one result was inconclusive and is being rerun.

Anderson said the worker is a physical therapist.

The employee was showing no symptoms when they participated in free testing in Wailuku last week and were found to be positive for COVID-19, Maui Health CEO Mike Rembis said in email to employees on Monday afternoon The staff member is now home in quarantine without symptoms.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Kula Hospital residents who had contact with this staff member were tested and placed in temporary isolation while we awaited test results,” Rembis said. “To date all resident test results have come back negative and we’re waiting for just one more test result. At this time, no Kula Hospital residents are experiencing any symptoms.”

The Kaiser-affiliated Maui Health, which operates Kula Hospital, Lanai Community Hospital and Maui Memorial Medical Center, where a cluster of workers have tested positive for the virus, has tested 219 patients and 90 employees for COVID-19, Rembis said. Most have come out negative, but a total of 27 employees and nine patients have tested positive. Additional results are pending.

A spokesperson did not immediately say Tuesday whether the 36 total cases included the Kula employee.

Rembis said that he has asked the Kaiser Permanente national command center and infectious disease experts to come to Maui to help in response to the pandemic. They will focus on:

— Assessing Maui Health operations.

— Expanding the existing response team and formalizing a Maui Health command center that will oversee operations including patient safety, workforce health, supply of personal protective equipment, policies, procedures and compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Implementing a proactive plan to transparently communicate with the Maui community.

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