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Hawaii Updates: Cases At 504; 34 Maui Memorial Workers, Patients Investigated; Farm Loans Available

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Noe Tanigawa
/
Hawai'i Public Radio

Updated: 4/13/2020, 6:15 p.m.

The state's confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases number 504, up 5 from the previous day, according to the state's latest daily update. The death count stands at nine. 

Oahu's case count is now 352, Maui's 84, Hawaii County's 40, Kauai' County's 21 and Molokai's 2. Three cases are pending determination of county and two were diagnosed out of state.

Travel-related cases have dropped significantly and community-associated cases have been slowly rising.

The ninth death was a woman 65 or older who had underlying medical conditions. She had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized on Oahu, the health department said yesterday.

34 coronavirus-positive workers, patients now investigated at Maui Memorial

The state Department of Health today increased the numbers affected by the coronavirus outbreak at Maui Memorial Medical Center to 34.

In addition to 15 Maui Memorial workers testing positive for the coronavirus and 4 patients under investigation after the outbreak, 9 staff and 6 patients have tested positive.

By today, the hospital planned to notify 194 patients who were cared for by the infected health care workers, the health department said. The department is helping with outreach to patients by phone and the testing of patients and workers is continuing.

After healthcare workers at Maui Memorial were confirmed to have COVID-19 last week, the hospital added temperature screenings for employees and visitors. And it is now requiring anyone who enters the hospital to wear a mask.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson, who earlier criticized the Maui Memorial’s lack of standard infection controls, said policies at hospitals are changing.

"This was never done in the past and I think hospitals have gone through a learning cycle here and...most of them are actually doing very, very well. Maui Memorial...has done a great job as I see it in the last week or two, at least as we've been monitoring the situation in probing their infection control procedures," he said. 

He said one hospital worker had been sick for a while but continued on the job.

Hawaii has 9 deaths from COVID-19. The eighth death was an elderly male hospitalized at Maui Memorial in the chronic care unit. 

Anderson said Friday that the department is investigating the death to see if it is tied to the outbreak at Maui Memorial.

 

Charmaine Morales, vice president of the union that represents Maui Memorial nurses, said the oncology department was the hardest hit by the outbreak. All but one nurse is at home in quarantine.

"My oncology department staff is at home. I know they would much rather be at work than home. Chemo treatment resumed for the patients in Maui. They were able to catch up because since the clinic has closed, there hadn't been two days of services," she said.

Morales said there needs to be more safety precautions in place to stop the further spread of COVID19 in hospitals.

"There should always be a separate entrance for employees. I recommend that, letting them have a private entrance, making sure that they're screened -- not just the questions but also having their temperature checked. That is something that I would recommend because I don't believe that's everywhere," she said.

 

She said increased testing for healthcare workers would go a long way as well.

Anderson said not all hospital employees will be tested. But the investigation and testing will be more rigorous because the outbreak happened at a hospital.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

4 Hawaii residents disembark from cruise ship

Four Oahu residents were alowed to disembark from Pacific Princess while moored at Honolulu Harbor, the state Department of Transportation said in a news release. 

They were screened before leaving the ship and were asymptomatic.

The four were then escorted home by harbor police to begin a 14-day quarantine.

The cruise ship is scheduled to leave today for California after refueling and loading supplies.

More visitors arrive on Easter Sunday

Another 91 visitors arrived in the islands yesterday despite the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Returning residents numbered 132, crew members 125, intended new residents 24, and transiting travelers 171, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Off-shore islets closed after boaters violate order

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued 20 warnings yesterday to boaters at the He'eia Kea Small Boat Harbor for violations of the stay-at-home order. 

Department enforcement offers observed dozens of people congregating at Ahu o Laka, the Kaneohe sandbar. 

Starting tomorrow, DLNR is also closing the small boat harbor ramp and trailer parking spaces.

The Mokulua Islets off Kailua and Lanikai beaches used by kayakers are also closed.

Limited help available to Hawaii farmers

From restaurants to office work, COVID-19 has changed daily life around the world, and across Hawaii.

One group that has been hit hard is farmers. 

In Hawaii, the state Agriculture Department has set up a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. But resources are limited and requests for help are about four times the level of financial aid available.

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Board of Agriculture and director of the Department of Agriculture, described the assistance last week. 

“Total funding is about a quarter of a million dollars. Individual farms and farmers may receive up to $2,000.  Nonprofit agricultural groups may receive up to $10 thousand. Hawaii Department of Agriculture received 333 applications requesting $1.2 million. Funds are limited, so not all applications can be funded,” she said.

The agriculture department is also working on putting together an emergency agricultural loan program. Details about the low-interest loan program may become available as soon as this week.

--HPR's Bill Dorman

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org. 

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