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No Ka Oi Health

It has been more than 125 days since the first confirmed presence of COVID-19 in Maui County; more than a hundred days of fear, suspicion and unknowns; and over four months of commonplace finger pointing at tourists, the media, the government, foreigners and your neighbors. The virus attacks in a cold, cruel, insidious way, but we cannot let our way of life ­– our Aloha Spirit ­– suffer the same fate.

Here on Maui, there is a lot of positivity. Boarded-up storefronts in Paia displayed uplifting paintings and encouraging words such as, “I can’t wait to give you a hug after this is all over.” Individuals are volunteering their time to help neighbors in need, groups have been created to sew homemade masks for donation, and there are countless community-led free meal distribution sites throughout the islands. As Maui always does in times of need, our community has once again come together and faced COVID-19 with a unified and conscientious directive. During the time when there were many sick with unemployment and fear high, we have seen those who walk through life with Aloha.

While this Aloha is ever apparent, some still faced discrimination. Locally, some health care workers had items, such as water bottles, thrown at them, and accusatory attacks with words, “You’re the ones spreading the virus!” Some individuals, who had tested positive for COVID-19, faced exclusion and prejudice from their own community. Some were ashamed of their past infection and left to feel as though they were not accepted. This fear may have driven individuals away from seeking the help they needed, which ultimately put them and their community at increased risk.

In Maui County, all COVID-19 positive tested individuals were monitored by the Department of Health’s disease investigation team, who would frequently check in with the individual, monitor symptoms and determine when it is safe for an individual to leave their self-isolation and quarantine. A core guideline for releasing an individual from self-isolation and considering them fully recovered required that the individual be symptom-free for at least three days and had developed their first symptom at least 10 days prior to release from isolation. Once this guideline is met, the community should feel assured that this individual is no longer infectious. It’s during these challenging times when we need to act with the greatest acceptance, support and compassion toward those who have recovered from COVID-19.

Let’s always support the ill to seek treatment. Let’s safely (with distance) provide for the individuals who are recovering and welcome them back into our community once recovered. Let’s thank our nurses and health care teams who are on the front lines of this battle. Accomplishing these acts of compassion are more challenging while respecting social distancing guidelines but can always be done with a little creativity. If you know someone who was sick, call them to show you care, send a letter, or offer to pick up extra items at the grocery store for them. Once recovered, celebrate the joy through a Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime call or delivering a lei to their door. A simple gesture can make all the difference.

Hawaii has always been known for its Aloha Spirit which is prevalent in abundance during this public health crisis. This is shown through the love and compassion for our most vulnerable, those who are ill, and those who have recovered. Our communities function their best when driven by compassion and love; let’s keep focusing on what we do best. The road ahead is uncertain, but we will come out stronger if we keep focusing on caring for one another always with Aloha.

Feel free to call the Maui District Health Office with any questions about isolation or quarantine at (808) 984-8216.

* Sara Hauptman is a public health emergency preparedness health educator and Maui County health volunteer co-coordinator with the Maui District Health Office. No Ka Oi Health is published on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, when available, by the state Department of Health.

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