A cluster of health care workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center have been infected with the new coronavirus.
“I was informed this morning that a cluster of COVID-19 cases has been identified and involve hospital staff at Maui Memorial Medical Center. These employees were immediately sent home to self-isolate and plans are moving forward to transport these workers to a quarantine site away from their families,” Maui Mayor Michael Victorino confirmed in a news release.
“We also are working very closely with Maui Health System, the State Department of Health and others to accelerate testing for additional hospital workers this afternoon. Gov. David Ige has assured me that he will do everything he can to expedite test results,” he said.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser earlier today that at least 15 employees are COVID-19 positive at the island’s largest hospital, and potentially 300 to 500 more people may have been in direct contact with the workers and are now at risk of contracting the disease.
In addressing the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 at the state Capitol today, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said eight of the 15 employees who tested positive for COVID-19 are connected to the oncology ward.
State officials said this afternoon that the Maui Memorial infections are not new cases.
“This is a reminder to everyone that the virus doesn’t discriminate and everyone is vulnerable — including those who are taking care of the community,” Gov. David Ige said at a news conference today.
A spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, which runs the hospital, didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Sources said workers were banned from wearing personal protective equipment unless caring for coronavirus patients, leaving them open to infection.
The concern is that employees being tested at the hospital will need to quarantine for 14 days, leaving a shortage of health care workers on island.
The state Department of Health has not issued guidance on whether or not all health care workers should wear PPE, leaving it up to hospitals to decide when it is necessary.
Maui Health System, which operates three hospitals including Maui Memorial, says on its website that it employs more than 1,500 and serves 150,000 residents on Maui and Lanai.
“I want to mahalo everyone who is on the front lines of this pandemic. These are difficult times for all of us and we are taking immediate action to assist our healthcare workers. The County will be redirecting any available personal protective equipment to the hospital for their staff,” Victorino said. “We will continue to do everything in our power to protect the health and safety of everyone in Maui County.”