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More cases confirmed at Maui Memorial hot spot

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  • BRUCE ASATO / MARCH 11, 2020
                                Lt. Gov. Josh Green says more than 1,500 people in the area were tested after a cluster of cases emerged Wednesday at Maui Memorial.

    BRUCE ASATO / MARCH 11, 2020

    Lt. Gov. Josh Green says more than 1,500 people in the area were tested after a cluster of cases emerged Wednesday at Maui Memorial.

The number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii increased by 21 on Saturday, including another 10 cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center — currently the hot spot for the disease in the islands.

In addition, the state reported a 65-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions died after testing positive for COVID-19 while hospitalized on Oahu. She was the ninth person in the state to die from the disease.

The statewide total of cases now stands at 486, including 20 new adult cases and one minor. Eleven of the new cases were community-spread, while 10 were unknown and none had any association with travel, the state said.

The Department of Health said cases at Maui Memorial had increased to 29 on Saturday, but a Maui Memorial spokeswoman said the Health Department’s numbers were inaccurate and were being verified.

The Health Department emphasized that the cluster of cases at Maui Memorial was not hospital-wide and involved “at least two wards with the Chronic Care Ward as the major focus.” The state said 90 staff members and 36 patients had been tested, and some of the positive test results appeared to be introduced and unrelated to the hospital cluster. The Health Department said it will notify patients who may have been affected.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the hospital is considered a hot spot, but the hospital has been conducting aggressive testing of people who may have come in contact with others who have tested positive. He said the aggressive testing along with the improved communication between the administration and the hospital staff “will put out the fire.”

He said more than 1,500 people were tested in the area of the hospital within 72 hours after the Maui Memorial cluster came to light on Wednesday. Those test results are now coming back, possibly causing the increase in cases, Green said. Most of the test results should be back Monday, when a clearer picture of the outbreak should emerge.

Green said people should still feel safe when going to the Maui hospital because is has good safety protocols in place.

On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who represent remote communities of East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, requested in a letter to Gov. David Ige that Hawaii National Guard troops be sent to those areas.

“Deployment of the Hawaii National Guard will be beneficial in helping the County of Maui enforce travel restrictions in and out of these areas, enhance community policing efforts and maintain law and order,” the letter states.

Meanwhile, the number of visitor arrivals at the state’s airports moved downward slightly to 104 on Friday, from 107 on Thursday. A total of 424 people arrived in Hawaii on Friday, including 135 residents, 109 crew members, 48 intended residents and 28 transit passengers, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The numbers have been lower since Gov. David Ige asked visitors to stay away from Hawaii for 30 days and instituted a 14-day quarantine for travelers. A week ago Friday, there were 94 visitors, but the number slowly increased to 160 on Tuesday. The number continues to be low compared to the 30,000 passengers that arrived daily in Hawaii at this time last year.

Friday was the first night of an overnight curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Oahu, and only two people — a man and a woman — were arrested during the curfew for investigation of violating emergency rules during a state of emergency, according to Honolulu Police Department records. The woman was also booked on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. She was released after posting $600 bail. The previous night, only one person was arrested for violating an emergency order on Oahu during the curfew period.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the curfew Thursday, banning the driving of vehicles, including bikes and mopeds, overnight until Monday morning to keep social distancing measures in place during the three-day holiday weekend.

Also Saturday, the state said county and state law enforcement agencies were stepping up patrols and enforcing stay-at-home orders this holiday weekend. But about 100 people gathered at the sand bar in Kaneohe Bay on Saturday, with many not keeping at least 6 feet apart and drinking, rather than being there to exercise. There were about 30 boats anchored Saturday afternoon, with people gathering in groups of eight to 10 and interacting with other boaters, witnesses said.

The Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center said staying 6 feet apart from others is the most important thing the public can do to fight the spread of the disease.

“While cloth masks can help prevent the spread from you to another person, they are not a substitute for physical distancing,” the center said.

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