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Mayor again warns of county restraints

Hospital COVID-19 cases climb to 45

As Maui hit a single-day record for COVID-19 cases, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino again warned that he will reinstate emergency restrictions if numbers don’t improve — this time by Monday.

“I’m going to say that unless this changes quite drastically quite quickly, rollback will start,” Victorino said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “And we’re looking probably at announcing something no later than Monday.”

Maui recorded a record 20 new cases Wednesday, according to state Department of Health officials. The state also recorded two more Oahu deaths related to COVID-19.

All the while, cases at Maui’s main hospital continued to creep up, with Maui Memorial Medical Center reporting 45 COVID-19 cases — 24 patients and 21 health care workers — on Wednesday, up from 36 on Tuesday.

The hospital surge triggered mass testing of all patients, employees and providers. Tracy Dallarda, hospital spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the hospital so far has performed 637 tests on employees, with 602 negative results, 21 positive and 14 pending.

“The purpose of this testing is to understand the prevalence of the virus in our hospital,” Dallarda said in a statement. “Because our patients, employees and providers are a direct reflection of our community, it will also provide a valuable estimate of viral incidence on Maui and help identify symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals and allow us to further isolate, quarantine and limit further transmission.”

Dallarda has said the surge at the hospital is a reflection of spikes around the state and that many MMMC cases are community spread.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, state Department of Health Maui District health officer, said at the news conference, that because the virus is prevalent throughout the community, it’s difficult to tell whether MMMC health care workers contracted COVID-19 outside or inside of the hospital.

When clusters have popped up on Maui, such as at a hot yoga class, a bachelor party or out-of-state travel for a funeral, officials make pleas to the public to change behavior, Pang added.

“We say stop it, change things, don’t travel so much,” he said. “But sometimes you can’t quite shut it down. You can’t say shut down the hospital, you can’t do that.”

He discussed the importance of individual responsibility and prevention measures, such as physical distancing, wearing face masks and sanitizing.

The Health Department reported that as of late Tuesday afternoon there were 16 people hospitalized at Maui Memorial with COVID-19. The hospitalization counts on other islands were 163 on Oahu, six on Hawaii island and two on Kauai.

In light of triple-digit surges sweeping over Oahu for weeks, Gov. David Ige signed the City and County of Honolulu’s “Act Now Honolulu” order Wednesday, which will restrict social indoor and outdoor gatherings to no larger than five people effective at 12:01 a.m. today.

“We can only be successful when we each take personal responsibility . . . stay home, wash hands, wear masks,” Ige said during a state news conference. “We’re focused on unstructured social gatherings, and the surge we’re seeing is because people let their guard down.”

He said that the Neighbor Islands will remain in the “Act with Care” phase of reopening due to lower case counts.

However, Victorino has cautioned for weeks that rollbacks may be coming if cases average double-digits over a consistent period of time. He upgraded his warning Wednesday, saying that he will decide over the next few days whether restrictions are coming.

Asked by The Maui News what rollbacks he’s considering, Victorino declined to lay out specifics but added that he is eyeing uncontrolled social gatherings, such as sporting activities with large families not wearing masks or social distancing.

“I will say if you are in modem of gatherings where you have large groups of people that are coming together . . . these are the kind of things that make it really difficult to monitor,” he said.

“These are areas I’m looking at first because these seem to be where many of the outbreaks have begun, in activities where people gather . . . they congregate, they are not wearing masks, and they’re not physical distancing,” Victorino added. “Beaches? Beach parks? Who knows?

“Those are areas that are rising to the top as far as priorities to be shut down.”

In other COVID-19 developments:

• The Maui District Health Office will be providing information to Molokai residents today via Zoom on its contact tracing process and how Molokai residents can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information, call Rep. Lynn DeCoite’s office at (808) 586-6790 or email r.crall@capitol.hawaii.gov.

• 164 PCR tests were administered Wednesday during drive-thru COVID-19 testing event at Keopuolani Park, a partnership between the county and Minit Medical.

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

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