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Cluster of coronavirus cases found at 2 McDonald’s in Kona

Hawaii health officials are investigating the state’s second cluster of COVID-19 infections, this one among employees at McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona.

An employee who contracted the coronavirus inadvertently infected six other workers at McDonald’s locations on Makala Boulevard at Kona Commons and Walmart in Kailua-Kona, which has since closed operations.

In addition, five family members exposed to two of the COVID-positive employees have contracted the virus, bringing the total number of connected cases to 12. Health Director Bruce Anderson earlier mistakenly said the total infected was 14.

The DOH initially would not identify the restaurant, but said there is no risk to customers because “the restaurant was taking necessary physical distancing measures to protect customers.”

“Fortunately the restaurant like many food establishments had previously implemented social distancing measures to protect customers and prevent exposure prior to an employee testing positive,” the department said. “The establishment has closed its operation and performed enhanced cleaning. Employees who have tested positive are in isolation and exposed employees without symptoms are in self quarantine at home. DOH does not believe this outbreak poses a risk to the general public. The department is continuing to work with the restaurant to ensure all possible precautions are being taken to prevent further spread of disease.”

The Federal Drug Administration has said there is no evidence of food or packaging related to transmission.

McDonald’s franchise owner, Patrick Lim, said the company is making changes to restaurant operations “to serve food safely and conveniently with the health and well-being of restaurant employees top of mind” amid the outbreak.

“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our number one priority. We have closed our Kona Commons and McDonald’s of Walmart Kona locations for deep cleaning to conduct a comprehensive sanitization of the restaurant,” he said. “Our thoughts are with our crew members who have been impacted by COVID-19 and we look forward to re-opening when it is safe to do so.”

Anderson used the situation to point to how quickly the virus can spread among people in close proximity.

“One person can really create a significant problem,” he told a Senate committee on COVID-19. “They are confirmed cases all in isolation and all being restricted now in activity.”

Hawaii’s first cluster of health care workers infected with the novel coronavirus was discovered on Maui.

The outbreak among front-line employees at Maui Memorial Medical Center, which did not require use of personal protective equipment for all employees, has grown to 34 people, including two health care workers and one patient.

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