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Food distribution event provides holiday meals to 3,300 Hawaii families

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                                Volunteer Roberta Hsu packs bags of groceries for distribution on Friday at Aloha Stadium.


    Volunteer Roberta Hsu packs bags of groceries for distribution on Friday at Aloha Stadium.

An estimated 3,300 families each received nearly 100 pounds of food during the Great Aloha Run’s food distribution event Friday at Aloha Stadium, as Hawaii health facilities continued to ramp up vaccination campaigns to stem the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in 281 deaths and 19,859 cases in the state.

“It was very heartwarming to see that the families were really, really happy,” said Carole Kai, founder the annual Great Aloha Run charity event.

Enough food for 3,500 families was available, Kai said, and the remaining items will be given out today in Waianae.

Kai especially credited Ray Vara, president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health, the Great Aloha Run’s title sponsor, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the city for supporting the food distribution.

Roughly $185,000 was raised through the private sector while $200,000 came from federal COVID-19 aid via the city.

Kai also thanked Commercial Plumbing President Randy Hiraki, who approached her with the idea to do a food distribution.

Caldwell was one of the 200 or so volunteers at the event who helped package and load food into cars. In a video posted on his Instagram account, Caldwell noted the giveaway would allow the families to put food on their tables for Christmas, just one week away.

“When we look at the faces of those coming through — a lot of sadness and a lot of appreciation,” he said. “The year 2020 has been extremely difficult. … We’re looking forward to this year being behind us and 2021 a much more bright and hopeful year.”

Kai said the food packages included whole turkeys, hamburger and spare ribs along with eggs, vegetables and other food items.

Meanwhile, Hawaii health officials on Friday reported one new coronavirus-related death on Oahu and 105 new infections statewide. The latest fatality was a woman in her 60s who had underlying conditions and had been hospitalized, officials said.

The state Department of Health coronavirus-related death toll now includes 217 fatalities on Oahu, 44 on Hawaii island, 17 on Maui, one on Kauai and two Hawaii residents who died on the mainland.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll hit more than 311,000 on Friday with over 17 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Hawaii Pacific Health joined other medical facilities this week in administering the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine that arrived in the state this week. The health care system said it vaccinated 2,230 front line workers at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center and Hawaii Pacific Health Medical Group.

“This effort took a remarkable amount of planning, coordination and teamwork to quickly administer the new vaccine to our front line workers and I’m deeply appreciative of our team for all of their hard work,” Vara said in a statement. “The vaccine is an important step to help keep our health care workers safe and restore the health and wellness of our communities. We remain committed to doing our part to support this effort.”

Vaccines also have been distributed to Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu and West Oahu, Tripler Army Medical Center and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

The new statewide infection cases reported by the Health Department include 105 on Oahu, 11 on Maui, seven on the Big Island, one on Kauai and six Hawaii residents diagnosed while outside the state. As a result of updated information, one case each from Oahu and the Big Island was removed from the counts, officials said.

The statistics released Friday reflect new cases reported to the department through 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

Health officials counted 4,720 new COVID-19 test results, for a 2.7% statewide positivity rate.

The total number of coronavirus cases by island since the start of the outbreak are 16,760 on Oahu, 1,769 in Hawaii County, 746 on Maui, 136 on Kauai, 106 on Lanai and 22 on Molokai. A total of 320 Hawaii residents were diagnosed outside of the state.

Hawaii health officials said that of the state’s total infection count, 1,489 cases are considered to be active. Officials consider infections reported in the past 14 days to be a “proxy number for active cases.” The number of active cases in the state rose by 21 Friday.

By island, Oahu has 1,153 active cases, Maui has 169, the Big Island has 147, Kauai has 16 and Molokai has four, according to the latest tally.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,394 have required hospitalization, with seven new hospitalizations — six on Oahu and one on Hawaii island — reported Friday by state health officials.

Three hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 1,391 hospitalizations within the state, 1,120 have been on Oahu, 84 on the Big Island, 69 on Maui, seven on Kauai, five on Lanai and one on Molokai.

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