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Cluster outbreak at hospital now deemed ‘closed’

Infections there account for nearly half of Maui County’s total cases

The state Department of Health announced Tuesday afternoon that the COVID-19 outbreak at Maui Memorial Medical Center that affected more than 50 patients and staff “is now considered closed.”

The last onset of illness was April 21, meaning that “two incubation periods of 14 days have passed since the last reported case,” DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo explained in an email Tuesday evening.

As of April 20, there were 56 people — 36 staff and 20 patients — under investigation as potentially associated with the cluster, Okubo said.

The earliest cases began in mid-March and were announced as a cluster April 8.

The state has said the cluster may have begun with an employee who came to work while ill with the virus.

Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda said Tuesday that “we are pleased” that the state has officially closed the cluster.

“It is a testament to our team of caregivers and our community in following state and county guidelines in an effort to ‘flatten the curve,’ “ Dallarda said.

She reiterated that Maui Health has one positive coronavirus patient in the hospital and only one “warm” COVID-19 isolation unit, which will remain in place for any future cases.

She also concurred with Okubo that Tuesday marks 28 days since the onset of any COVID-19 symptoms that could be attributed to the cluster.

Mayor Michael Victorino said during a news conference Tuesday that he was “very happy to hear this news.

“We will still be vigilant,” Victorino said. “We have assurances from the hospital they will continue to do testing.”

He also thanked the frontline workers.

“I’m excited with the good news,” he said. “I hope and pray it stays this way going forward.”

Maui Health’s assessment of the cluster numbers differ from the state’s total. Dallarda put the number at 52, including 14 patients and 38 health care workers, with two cases related to travel and two to community spread. One health care worker is not attributed to the cluster but is considered a “household contact” by the Health Department, Dallarda said.

All testing related to the cluster has been completed, she added.

Dallarda said that the state was working on updating its cluster numbers to retract cases not attributed to Maui Health.

Okubo said Tuesday evening that she will need to check with Health Department staff today on the numbers. She said the totals she had Tuesday evening were the latest she had received and that there may have been new information after April 20.

As it stands, the hospital cluster accounts for nearly half of Maui County’s 117 total cases.

Maui Memorial Medical Center, which is operated by the Kaiser-affiliated Maui Health System, received a Kaiser national command center team from the Mainland in April to help deal with the outbreak.

In March, hospital workers, especially nurses, were at odds with the administration over personal face mask rules and availability of personal protective equipment. The hospital initially prevented workers from wearing personal face masks when treating non-COVID-19 patients but later reversed its policy, though some nurses still had issues with wearing their own masks and personal protective equipment in April.

Maui Memorial’s cluster has slowed as cases have declined statewide.

As of noon Tuesday, there was just one new case in the state, on Hawaii island. There are now 641 cases statewide — 415 in Honolulu County, 117 in Maui County, 78 in Hawaii County and 21 in Kauai County.

Ten residents have been diagnosed outside the state. There have been 17 deaths — 11 on Oahu and 6 on Maui.

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

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