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Two Maui residents hospitalized for COVID-19

Maui Memorial hadn’t seen a coronavirus patient since early June

Maui Memorial Medical Center is shown in a photo from 2019. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Two patients are being treated for COVID-19 at Maui Memorial Medical Center for the first time since early June.

Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda confirmed Tuesday afternoon that both patients were Maui residents and that the cases were not connected. Both were in stable condition. Dallarda did not know whether the cases were related to travel or community spread.

She said the patients were tested before being admitted to the hospital. After the results came out positive, they were admitted.

Maui Memorial’s Wailuku Tower is serving as the hospital’s “warm unit,” which is where suspected or confirmed positive patients are treated. The Wailuku Tower warm unit has a capacity of 15 beds, Dallarda said.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Health reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Maui and 21 on Oahu. It was the first time Maui County had reported a case since July 13. All four are Maui residents, the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center confirmed.

Two of the Maui cases are associated with a history of out-of-state travel, while two other cases are still under investigation.

Health officials are also investigating small clusters of cases associated with out-of-state critical infrastructure workers, who were exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine. The Joint Information Center said the workers were related to the Oahu cases.

According to the department, there has been no spread beyond this cluster, since the workers were not interacting with the broader community as part of the exemption. They are now in quarantine.

Statewide, there have now been 1,418 cases, including 1,100 on Oahu, 139 in Maui County (including 137 on Maui, two on Molokai and none on Lanai), 114 on Hawaii island and 43 on Kauai. Twenty-two residents have been diagnosed out of state.

Of the total cases, 1,084 have been released from isolation, 151 have been hospitalized and 24 have died, including 17 on Oahu, six on Maui and one out of state.

When asked if the hospital planned to test the workers treating the new patients, Dallarda said that “testing is done if high risk exposure is a concern, which it is not with all safety precautions in place.”

“Maui Health has put several procedures into place to reduce the overall exposure risk for all patients, employees and providers,” she said via email. “This includes: universal screening and COVID testing for all patients that are admitted, which further mitigates the risk of exposure. In addition, all health care workers are protected and trained on appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), particularly the employees that are trained on caring for COVID-positive or PUI’s (persons under investigation).”

Dallarda added that everyone who enters the hospital must wear a mask and is subject to fever and symptom screening. Visitors are still restricted, with exceptions for obstetrics, pediatrics, patients with special needs or those requiring compassionate care and end-of-life services.

Maui Memorial received its first-ever COVID-19 patients in late March, shortly after the shutdown of nonessential businesses and stay-at-home orders went into effect. The initial cases triggered a cluster that grew to more than 50 cases and was finally declared closed on May 19.

The last patient to be treated for COVID-19 at Maui Memorial tested negative June 6 and is still in the hospital on a waitlist for a long-term care facility, Dallarda said. The patient was admitted in mid-February for a medical issue unrelated to COVID-19.

When asked what the hospital was doing to ensure the new cases didn’t turn into another cluster, Dallarda pointed to the precautions of masking, screening, testing patients and restricting visitors.

“Our infection control team of experts actively monitors exposure risk and is highly responsive to our health care team and will absolutely require testing on any and all individuals they believe may have had an exposure to COVID-19,” she said. “In fact, they work collaboratively with the frontline staff, solicit their involvement, interview them on any and all things related to caring for a COVID-positive or PUI patient, including what happened, when, their level of interaction, possible exposure level, etc. If an employee needs to be tested, they are tested.”

During an interview with The Maui News in May, an infection control official said that the hospital planned to start a regular testing schedule for staff in June. Dallarda said the hospital did conduct more than 1,000 tests, but that, eventually, the lack of COVID cases in the community “didn’t warrant the need to continue routine testing.”

“However, employees could continue to access our Advanced Practice Providers/employee health tent outside the ED (Emergency Department) for screening and testing if needed,” Dallarda said. “Routine testing will resume if needed.”

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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