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Maui County is expected to get 16,000 doses of COVID vaccine

No arrival date given, though health workers will get priority

Maui County is expected to receive about 16,000 doses when the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Hawaii, with the first doses administered to health care and emergency workers, Mayor Michael Victorino said on Friday.

Victorino said the vaccine needs to be administered twice, so the actual number of people that could take part in the first run of the vaccine would be 8,000. He did not give an estimated date of arrival during his news conference on Friday afternoon. Maui County spokesman Brian Perry said afterwards that he also did not have an estimated date.

Maui’s positive case numbers have been on the rise as of late, with 29 reported in the past two days — 14 on Thursday and 15 on Friday.

“This is a little scary, guys. We need to really pay attention,” Victorino said.

He added that the cases are among residents, and that the Valley Isle has been averaging about 8.4 positive cases per day over the past seven days.

“We need to make sure our residents need to do what they need to do to keep COVID-19 from spreading,” Victorino said.

Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said that “we are a little bit concerned” regarding the cases on Maui.

However, he said it would be more worrisome if the cases were coming “out of the blue.” Recent cases have been “explainable,” the result of people coming into contact with someone who has the virus.

As of Thursday, there were three clusters combining for 22 cases connected to Maui County bars and nightclubs in the last 14 days, the state Department of Health reported.

Other clusters were connected to restaurants (one cluster with six cases), a social gathering (one cluster with 14 cases) and a gym (one cluster with two cases).

Perry referred The Maui News to the DOH for more information on the clusters.

DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said in an email that the department is not naming the specific establishments linked to the clusters.

“We only release details about ongoing investigations if we believe there is an imminent health risk,” Baehr said.

When asked during the news conference about the policy of naming establishments connected to COVID-19 cases, Pang said that it depends. Sometimes DOH can contact trace with information from the business and thus feels it does not need to name the business. Other times DOH cannot conduct tracing and needs to get word out to the public, so it either makes the announcement or asks the business itself to do so. In the past, the department has specifically named Oahu bars connected to clusters.

Pang also noted that the spread in Maui County could be due to “bar-like behavior,” when someone has their mask off to eat or drink — which is allowed — and does so for hours. In places with loud music and television, people have to speak louder or yell, which can also spread the virus more easily, especially in enclosed spaces. Pang added that even if a person removed their mask to eat or drink and then put it back on again, there’s a chance of contamination if they did this repeatedly for hours.

Pang also encouraged people to exercise outdoors over concerns that breathing heavily during indoor classes could spread the virus.

On Friday, the DOH also announced it is reducing the required quarantine for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 from 14 to 10 days, to improve compliance without significantly increasing the risk of transmission in the community, a news release said.

The updated recommendations were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week. The previous 14-day quarantine was based on the full incubation period of the virus and was imposed to reduce the risk of transmission. However, the 14-day period created physical and mental health challenges as well as economic hardship for those unable to return to work, the DOH added.

However, the updated quarantine guidance does not apply to situations such as long-term care facilities, group care homes or correctional facilities.

The new rules also do not modify the travel quarantine as outlined in the governor’s emergency proclamations.

Maui County also announced Friday that it will be the first county in the state to use the AlohaSafe Alert smartphone application that notifies people that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The program has already undergone pilot testing on Lanai and Hana in November and has been approved for rollout in Maui County.

The target launch date is mid-December, with more information in the coming days, according to a county news release.

The app is free and can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play.

It’s the state’s official exposure notification app and was developed through a public-private partnership with aio Digital and Hawai’i Executive Collaborative.

Victorino said in the news release that “the app is meant to complement and expedite the ongoing work of contact tracers.”

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are currently participating in the Google Apple Exposure Notification (“GAEN”) system.

Location and identifiable information is not used or collected for privacy reasons, the news release said.

For more information, visit alohasafealert.org or email doh.alohasafe@doh.hawaii.gov.

The county also announced that drive-thru testing will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani.

Participants must pre-register at minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19 and are asked to arrive to the test site at their designated times.

Minit Medical is administering the program sponsored by Maui County.

For help registering or for more information, call 667-6161, ext. 7.

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

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