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DOH: Deaths that result from COVID-19 do take time to verify

5 deaths added this week from August-September

It can be a time-consuming process to accurately report COVID-19-related deaths, as shown Wednesday when five Maui fatalities, which occurred in August and September, were added to state totals.

Maui County’s death toll from COVID-19 grew to 18 Wednesday, following updated information on fatalities between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30, the state Department of Health reported.

As to why the reporting took two months, the state COVID-19 Joint Information Center said Thursday that reports to the Health Department may be delayed and that when medical examiners are involved, they may take longer to file reports due to additional postmortem studies.

The JIC explained that suspected COVID-19 deaths are called in to the Health Department, although some maybe missed by providers/certifiers. When the death is called in, DOH investigators note the possible COVID-19 related death on the record of the investigation and wait for an official death summary from either the medical provider or the hospital.

In many cases, the reports are delayed in being sent to the Health Department. Investigators follow up with the facilities and others to obtain the records to validate whether or not the cause of death was COVID-19 related.

The five deaths reported Wednesday included two men and two women who were 80 years old or older with underlying conditions. Another man with underlying conditions was 60 to 69 years old. The men were hospitalized when they died.

The women died in a nursing home, the JIC said Wednesday. The JIC said it “cannot detail specifics of where cases expired” and couldn’t name facilities.

A nursing home and assisted living facility on Maui have reported COVID-19 infections. An official with Hale Makua, a nursing home, said Wednesday that the deaths were not from their facility.

On Thursday, a representative from Roselani Place, an assisted living facility, said that it is not a nursing home and didn’t think the deaths reported Wednesday were from them.

Karl Drucks, a management representative for Roselani, said the primary care physicians for the residents who have died during the pandemic have ruled out COVID-19 as being the cause of death.

On Thursday, the state logged 91 new COVID-19 cases. The state’s total is now 13,764 cases.

Maui County reported two new cases and now has 411 total cases with 19 cases on Molokai and none on Lanai.

Oahu saw 74 new cases, raising its total to 12,249; Hawaii island had 13 new cases for 1,005 total; Kauai had no new cases and remained at 59.

Two new cases were reported for Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state. Due to updated information, one case from Oahu was removed from the counts.

One new death was reported Thursday, an Oahu man over the age of 80, who had an underlying condition and was hospitalized.

Also Thursday, Maui County announced the addition of another $1 million to the Kokua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund.

Small businesses now have until Oct. 31 to apply for grants of as much as $7,500.

The additional $1 million in CARES Act funding brings the fund’s total to $7 million. It was established in a partnership with local federal credit unions to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

So far, 859 applications have been approved, with more than $5.6 million disbursed. Twenty-four Molokai businesses have been awarded nearly $143,000, and three Lanai businesses have received more than $18,500.

Applicants do not have to be credit union members to apply.

For more information, go to mauinuistrong.net/kokua-maui-county or call 270-5745.

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

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