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Hundreds turn out for vaccine drive

Some turned away following a bit of confusion over online reservations

The state Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, shown here in a photo from Dec. 26, was hit with a surge of residents wanting a shot Monday. A DOH official said many were supposed to take the shot at Maui Memorial Medical Center but instead chose the DOH clinic in an online reservation system. UH-Maui College photos

State Department of Health officials were “swamped” at their COVID-19 vaccination site Monday in Kahului, with about 400 more patients than expected due to confusion over the online reservation system.

Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said during a county news conference Monday that he had to turn some people away thinking they wouldn’t have enough vaccinations to get through the day, though in the end they did.

The issue stemmed from the Vaccine Administration Management System developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which takes registrations for the vaccine and gives people the option to take the shot at either the state Department of Health site at the University of Hawaii Maui College or at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Health Department spokesman Brooks Baehr explained Monday afternoon.

Hundreds ended up reserving a spot at the UH-MC location, where state officials are still trying to work on vaccinating the 1A top priority tier that includes health care personnel and people who live and work in high-risk facilities such as skilled nursing homes. Pang said the site is not ready to take patients from the next tier.

Maui Memorial, meanwhile, has moved on to the 1B tier that includes people older than 75, along with frontline essential workers not in the health care field. The hospital opened an online registration site late last week. Those who register on the hospital’s online electronic platform are supposed to get their shots at the hospital, Baehr explained.

The state Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the University of Hawaii Maui College is still ongoing by appointment only. The clinic is still trying to vaccinate health personnel and first responders, the first tier of those eligible for vaccinations.

He said that 763 vaccines were given Monday at UH-MC, with 491 from the online registration site.

The rush Monday demonstrated the challenge that health officials face as they work their way through the priority groups and as residents navigate the rollout plan and online reservations.

Pang said that those who were turned away from UH-MC on Monday can come back to the next clinic Wednesday.

However, anyone registering via the hospital site must choose the hospital as their vaccination clinic moving forward. Baehr said anyone with appointments beyond Wednesday should go into their Vaccine Administration Management System account and switch their clinic to the hospital. There is no vaccination clinic at UH-MC today.

Since Maui Memorial began taking 1B-tier patients Saturday, the hospital has vaccinated 850 as of Monday, spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda said Monday afternoon.

She said that Maui Health is “making it very clear” when patients ask for an appointment that they select the hospital, as people may get turned away from the UH-MC site. Both DOH and Maui Health “have a certain number of vaccines that are distributed based on demand,” Dallarda said via text.

She agreed that people are very excited to be vaccinated and “we are just as excited to vaccinate our community.”

With Maui still seeing high numbers of new cases each day, Managing Director Sandy Baz said at the news conference that the county is waiting to see if Gov. David Ige will approve the county’s request to revise some emergency rules.

After initially declining to provide details, county officials finally shared some of the changes they’ve proposed, including restricting large retail facilities such as Costco, Target and WalMart to only 30 percent capacity while limiting small mom-and-pop retailers to only 50 percent capacity, Baz said.

The county is also asking that off-island essential workers who are exempt from testing be required to take a test if they remain in Maui County for more than a day to perform their essential work. Baz said these workers would be tested prior to arriving in the county.

Another rule change would require travelers to Maui County to download an application such as AlohaSafe Alert onto their phones, which can alert users when they come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Baz said this would make contact tracing easier if a traveler tests positive while in Maui County.

Officials are also keeping tabs on a major cluster and new cases at a couple of health care facilities. At Harbor Lights, the COVID-19 cluster that began in late December has now risen to 97 cases, Baz said. Another 57 cases are within the Pacific Islander community. Nearly 40 percent of Maui’s cases since Dec. 29 have either been from the Harbor Lights cluster or from within the Pacific Islander community, Baz said.

Baz said the DOH has determined that the rise in cases is due to the holidays, and that hopefully by the end of this month, the clusters will level off.

He said the capacity of health care facilities are still good and that there have been no clusters or hotspots in resort areas.

On Monday, Roselani Place, an assisted living community in Kahului, reported one staff member tested positive for COVID-19. The person is asymptomatic and isolating at home.

A total of 28 residents at Roselani Place were tested Saturday with presumptive negative results. Of the 28 PCR tests taken to confirm the results, five came back negative late Sunday night and the facility is awaiting word on the others.

Another 17 staff were tested Monday with results pending.

Today, all staff will resume rapid antigen tests as well as PCR tests, according to a news release.

About 60 Roselani residents will be vaccinated on site Thursday by Pang and the Maui Heath Health District Office team.

Staff continue to get vaccinated at the UH-MC clinic and Maui Health also has vaccines available for staff, if needed, Roselani said.

Hale Makua Health Services also said Monday that another staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Kahului facility. Testing of all residents and staff is ongoing to be sure no spread of the virus has occurred.

The latest case comes after one resident and one staff member tested positive at Hale Makua last week. All cases are unrelated, as the individuals have not had contact with one another, a news release said.

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

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