Two Lanaians with COVID-19 flown to off-island hospitals
700 travelers and returning residents take post-arrival test; one positive case
Two Lanai residents have required hospitalization, as a COVID-19 cluster on the island grew to 96 cases Wednesday, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said.
He said one patient was sent to Maui and the other was transported to Oahu. Two others who may be close to needing hospital care would be taken to Lanai Community Hospital and later could be transported to Maui or Oahu hospitals if needed, Victorino said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Victorino reported nine new COVID-19 cases in Maui County, including seven on Lanai, where an outbreak was reported last week.
“The cluster on Lanai has somewhat leveled off as I predicted,” he said.
The state Department of Health has identified large social gatherings and household transmission “as the main drivers of this outbreak,” according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center daily news digest.
Responding to a question about a report that the number of positive cases among Lanai High and Elementary School students has doubled to 30 since last week, Victorino said, “Obviously, I’m always concerned when COVID cases rise in any area, especially a small island like Lanai where they have limited medical facilities.”
He said the spread among students would have started with schoolchildren who weren’t showing symptoms. The school has since closed to in-person learning, shifting to distance learning for at least two weeks, Victorino said.
The island has been under a stay-at-home order since Tuesday, with a mass testing event set for Saturday. In addition, Lanai Community Hospital can accommodate testing of about 40 people a day Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, said Managing Director Sandy Baz. He said people should call the hospital to schedule testing.
“I think we have things in hand,” Victorino said. “We have taken the necessary precautions. I’m cautiously optimistic we will be able to get out of this, but more new cases will be coming up because of contacts.”
Responding to another question, Victorino said the county has heard some complaints about tourists driving to Hana and illegally parking, trespassing and littering.
Because the road is a state highway, Victorino said he would need permission from the governor to close it again.
“There has not been that many vehicles,” he said. “Yeah, more vehicles are going in there at this time. However, people are being more mindful, and we’re having our police do more checks. We’re doing the best we can.”
He said county officials would review and evaluate the situation next week.
On Tuesday, trans-Pacific arrivals at Kahului Airport totaled 911, including 495 people who reported being on vacation and 152 returning residents.
Managing Director Sandy Baz said the county’s mask-wearing campaign is continuing, with digital signs placed at the airport, on Hana Highway near Haleakala Highway and on Honoapiilani Highway between Kuihelani Highway and North Kihei Road.
The signs, placed to be visible to visitors leaving the airport and heading to lodging places, say that face coverings are required under state and county rules, Baz said.
“Everyone must wear masks in public on Maui, Molokai and Lanai and statewide,” he said.
Not wearing a mask in public is a violation of public health emergency rules and could result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year in jail, he said.
Airlines, hotels, restaurants and shopping complexes are joining in the effort to notify visitors about the rules, Victorino said.
“People are getting notified from the moment they get off the plane,” especially about mask-wearing and social distancing rules, he said.
Baz said the county’s voluntary second testing program is continuing for arriving travelers who have taken pre-travel COVID-19 tests. More than 700 returning residents and visitors have taken the second test on Maui, with only one confirmed positive COVID-19 case as of Wednesday morning, Baz said.
The second test must be taken 72 hours or later after someone arrives on Maui.
In other COVID developments:
• Grant funding of $47,250 from Hawaii Community Foundation will be used to support COVID-19 response efforts on Lanai. The Lanai Community Health Center will receive $37,250 for COVID-19 tests and food supplies for grocery bags to be delivered to 150 households. Maui United Way will receive $10,000 to provide personal protective equipment to Lanai health care workers, volunteers and community members.
• Hawaiian Airlines has opened its pre-travel COVID-19 testing site near San Francisco Airport that is compliant with state rules, the airline said Wednesday. The drive-thru service requires a shallow nasal swab test for the droplet digital PCR test with Worksite Labs. Test results are guaranteed within 36 hours for $90 and day-of-travel express service for $150. Tests can be scheduled at www.schedulecovid testing.com. The results should be uploaded to the state’s Safe Travels form at https://travel.hawaii.gov/#/
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.