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No Ka Oi Health

In an attempt to keep the number of COVID-19 cases in Maui County within our health care’s capacity and save lives, Mayor Michael Victorino set the “Stay at Home” order, replacing the former social distancing order.

The Stay at Home order states that we are to remain at home, except for essential work and needs (such as shopping, medical care and solo exercise). We are not to visit with others at our homes or in the community. When we must go out for essential needs, we are to wear a mask and practice social distancing (remain at least 6-feet away from others).

For the most part, everyone in Maui County is doing their part even though it’s been challenging. This article is to remind you of a few points, from a public health perspective, why it’s important to continue physically distancing (stay at home) and then practice social distancing when we absolutely must go out.

• Many COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic. Research has found that between 20 and 80 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 don’t have symptoms. While feeling fine, these people can still be infectious to others. So, having people who are infectious, but not knowing they are, out in public is not good for preventing COVID-19 from spreading through our community. This is especially bad for high risk groups.

• COVID-19 patients can be infectious before they are ill. Research also has found that COVID-19 patients can be infectious up to 48 hours before they become ill. So again, these people can be unknowingly infecting others before they know they are ill.

• Long incubation period. If you get infected with COVID-19, it can take up to 14 days before you become ill. If you are out in public or visiting with friends a lot during this time, we may not be able to determine who infected you or who you spread it to. A lot of spread could happen by the time you realize you are ill, which makes it challenging for us to minimize the number of COVID-19 cases on Maui.

• Droplets can remain airborne. While COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, these droplets can remain airborne for some time before they fall to the ground. Research suggests these droplets can remain airborne for at least 30 minutes; longer in humid environments. Given this information, social distancing at 6 feet apart may not be enough, especially while out exercising. Even if we aren’t coughing, we each exhale droplets, especially when talking and breathing hard during exercising. If these droplets remain airborne for 30 minutes or longer, that increases our chance of catching and spreading COVID-19.

• What all this means. Given the nature of COVID-19 (high asymptomatic rate, long incubation period, patients being infectious before they’re ill, and droplets remaining airborne for a while), we can’t assume someone isn’t infectious just because they don’t look or feel ill. The Stay at Home order was set in place to protect you, your family and Maui County. If we continue to physically isolate, we can keep the number of COVID-19 cases within our health care means and save our islands from problems other communities worldwide are experiencing.

So, everyone please do your part to stay at home as much as possible and, as Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green stated recently, “don’t take advantage of the exceptions”. Before each trip to the store, ask yourself if it’s necessary. Reduce the number of shopping trips by making a list and getting enough food for at least two weeks (without hoarding). For your daily solo exercise, reduce your risk by only exercising with family who live in your household and by exercising where it’s not crowded.

When you must go out for essential needs, practice social distancing (at least 6 feet apart) and wear a mask. Remember you wearing a mask protects others; others wearing a mask protects you.

During these challenging times, it is crucial to stay connected with family and friends. There are several free video apps available to help you stay connected, such as Zoom, Google Duo and FaceTime. You can also simply call friends with your phone.

For additional resources, call 211 or Public Health Education at (808) 984-8216.

* Kristin Mills is public health educator with the state Department of Health’s Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the fourth Thursday of the month by the state Department of Health.

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