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Maui cases linked to youth football tournament on Mainland

Seven on Maui, six on Oahu test positive after returning home

Matagi

Seven COVID-19 cases on Maui have been linked to a Pylon Mecca 7-on-7 football tournament that was held in Utah and Nevada last weekend, according to preliminary investigations by the state Department of Health.

Health officials said “it’s still really early” to reveal specifics about the recent cluster other than that it involves youth football players, ranging in age from the high school, middle school and the under-14 division, as well as spectators and parents who recently traveled to the Mainland with the team.

Six cases on Oahu are linked to the same youth tournament, an event that often brings college scouting and scholarship opportunities.

“Especially during the pandemic, athletics or any of these types of events have not been readily available, so every family has to make whatever decision that works best for their family,” Chantelle Matagi, lead DOH contact tracing investigator, said during a news conference late Friday afternoon. “We don’t judge them, we don’t try to judge them, but whatever happens afterwards, we are there to try and support them.”

The club teams include players and families islandwide, meaning the cluster is not linked to any particular community or school, Matagi said.

Games took place on April 24 and 25, and the first cases were reported on Wednesday and Thursday after the individuals developed COVID-19 symptoms.

Media outlets reported that many Kahuku High School football players participated in the tournament for a chance to play competitively after the majority of their season was canceled due to the pandemic. They brought back two trophies last week, including the Pylon Mecca 7-on-7 National Championship.

It is not confirmed whether any Kahuku players tested positive for COVID-19.

Maui and Oahu residents returned home on Sunday evening and Monday, and there are some travelers still en route from the Mainland.

“I think the biggest thing to recognize is that we’re trying to be proactive in this situation,” Matagi said. “We just want everyone to know that we’re not pointing fingers, we’re not blaming anyone, but instead, what we’re really looking to do is support them and make sure that we minimize the exposure and that we contain it.”

DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said the department reveals COVID-19 information to the public “when there’s an imminent health threat, and we thought in this case, there is indeed a health threat.”

“It’s about protecting people and getting the word out,” said Baehr, adding that more cases are likely to develop.

Matagi said that the players, parents and spectators who participated in the Safe Travels pre-travel testing program, which requires travelers to take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii and provide a negative test result prior to the final leg of the trip, yielded negative test results.

Those who opted out of testing are currently self-quarantining.

“Teams could have traveled as early as Monday morning, so they did testing prior to some of the games and some of the get-togethers that were held in Mesquite, Nevada, and so it is possible that you could have tested negative but then engaged with other people, played some games and had some other get-togethers associated with the tournament and exposure could have occurred at that time,” Baehr said. “You still would have perhaps tested negative and qualified for travel within that 72-hour window and boarded your flight perfectly free and clear, but unfortunately could have been exposed after your test and then have since arrived in the islands.”

Anyone who attended the tournament is asked to take a COVID-19 test and quarantine for at least 10 days after their last exposure to someone who has tested positive.

Quarantine should be followed by four days of self-monitoring, according to DOH.

All close contacts who have not been fully vaccinated are asked to quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms including fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, head and body aches, loss of taste or smell, sore throat or congestion.

Investigations are ongoing and more information will be revealed as it becomes available, the department said.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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