Hana Reports What May Be Its First COVID-19 Case

Nov 20, 2020

Hana has reported one case of COVID-19, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino announced yesterday. The case is believed to be the first in the rural East Maui community but the individual is being tested again to rule out the possibility of a false positive.

The mayor described the person, now in isolation, as asymptomatic with no recent history of travel.

“I urge Hana residents to stay home as much as possible and practice aloha by taking all measures to limit the spread of the virus in our community. These include wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing and avoiding gatherings,” he said in a news release.

Hana physician Chad Meyer said during a virtual community meeting last night that he spoke with the man, who said he had followed all safety measures, including wearing a mask and washing hands.

Meyer said the individual -- a Hana man -- had limited contact with others and Meyer believes he does not pose a risk of spread. He said with Hana's low virus prevalence, it is possible the case is a false positive. 

State Sen. J. Kalani English said while there is no official lockdown, it would be safer for residents to think about whether they need to go out, socialize or gather for Thanksgiving.

"Be very cautious right now," he said. The state Department of Health will know in a few days if there has been spread, he said.

The positive case was discovered during a free testing event held by the county in Hana on Wednesday. About 100 people were tested.

Josiah Nishita, Maui deputy managing director, said the mayor's office will work to schedule more testing dates. Hana Health and other providers also offer COVID tests.

English said he does not think the case impacts the schools, based on conversations the health department has had with the individual.

In response to a resident's question, English said it would likely take many cases and "very extraordinary" circumstances before the Hana Highway is closed.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, the Maui District health officer, said there is no question that the opening to visitors under the state Safe Travels program has led to more cases on the Neighbor Islands. He said of 700 visitors who were recently tested, seven or 1% were positive.

"How many visitors do you get to Hana? And what kind of contact do they have with you guys?" he asked. He said while Hana's prevalence is low, visitors "truly have infection."

Hana residents were encouraged to download the AlohaSafe app to help in contact tracing and exposure notification. The app is being used in Lanai, which had an outbreak last month that was essentially contained after a stay-at-home mandate, surge testing and outreach efforts.  

At least one Hana resident expressed frustration with being told to be careful when visitors travel freely.

"I shouldn't have to be told, 'Hey, stay home,' when I make safe choices," she said.

English said there is similar sentiment in Lanai, Molokai and other rural communities. While he said he does not have the perfect answer, health and safety should guide people's actions.