BREAKING: Maui Health Care Worker and Two Patients Test Positive for Covid-19

August 13, 2020, 1:46 PM HST · Updated August 15, 5:29 PM
Wendy Osher · 41 Comments
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By Wendy Osher

As of noon today, Maui Health has confirmed that it has one health care worker and two patients at Maui Memorial Medical Center who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The health care worker is in quarantine at home and the patients have been isolated in the hospital’s COVID-19 warm unit.

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“We do have our regular warm unit–Wailuku Tower–that is where the two patients that are positive have been isolated.  It’s a very easy unit to isolate because each one of those rooms is private,” said Tracy Dallarda, Communications for Maui Health / Maui Memorial Medical Center during a phone interview this afternoon.

The unit that was immediately isolated because the health care worker and the two patients were all in that unit–is Maui North.  It is a medical surgical unit,” said Dallarda, noting that the unit was immediately isolated until there are assurances that there’s no further spread. “So we’re testing all of the employees, providers, patients… and in fact any employees (nursing or ancillary) that feel that they perhaps may have been exposed, we’re offering them the opportunity for testing as well.”

According to officials at Maui Health, the health care worker, who came to work yesterday with no symptoms and was screened for symptoms/temperature before entering the hospital, later became symptomatic during their shift. The worker was immediately tested and then sent home to await results, which subsequently returned positive for COVID-19.

“There’s no known recent travel,” said Dallarda via phone this afternoon.  “The health care worker lives and works in the community, so it could be community based.  We’re also not certain that the health care worker is the source,” she said, noting that it could be a patient, but also notes that the hospital does universal screening and testing of all patients that are admitted into the hospital.

“If a patient is admitted into the hospital, tested and is negative, the assumption is that the patient is negative, particularly if they don’t have any symptoms,” she said.  “But we also know with the advent of COVID and all that they’re learning, is that 30 percent of people that are positive are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms. So although we put these precautions in place to protect everybody… nothing is 100 percent,” said Dallarda.

The Emergency Operations Center’s contact tracing team was immediately initiated and began investigating potential patient and employee contact with the infected worker. Through contact tracing Maui Health has identified and tested any patients who had contact with the individual, two of which returned positive for COVID-19.  At this time, both patients are asymptomatic and were immediately isolated.

Contact tracing and notifications, which began last night, continue today, in addition to testing all employees, providers, and patients on the affected unit.

“In an abundance of caution, Maui Memorial has converted the affected unit into a warm unit. Additionally, MMMC is offering any employees or providers who were not identified as having direct contact with the positive health care worker or patient(s) but feel they may have been exposed, an assessment by an Advanced Practice Provider and COVID-19 test in the emergency department,” according to Dallarda.

“We are committed to testing any and all individuals that may have been exposed to prevent any spread of the virus and plan to start a second round of testing for employees and patients in the next few days. Maui Health is working collaboratively with the Department of Health to investigate the possibility of a community-acquired infection as the source. We are also working very closely with Mayor Victorino and his team to ensure timely and transparent communication and tracking,” said Dallarda.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green responded to Maui Now’s request for information on Maui’s current capacity. He said out of the 29 ICU beds, nine are filled and 0 are from COVID-19. As for ventilators, Lt. Gov. Green says there are 28 that are available on Maui, three were in use and none of them were used by COVID-19 patients. According to Maui Health, there are more than twice that number of ventilators (60) available on Maui.

Looking forward, Maui Health is monitoring the uptick in cases.  “If we have a high census, we’re going to back and look at those elective procedures, particularly elective procedures that require hospitalization of typically one night and reevaluate–do we need to be continuing those, or do we need to put those on hold as we did last time so we have that bed availability if needed for COVID patients,” said Dallarda.

The visitor policy at the Maui hospital is still at a restricted level.  It was never reopened to previous levels because when hospital administrators were considering a potential transition, the cases in the state as a whole began increasing.  The current policy calls for no visitors with the exception of a pediatric patient, an OB patient that has a partner (the partner has to stay with that OB patient at all times and cannot wander the hospital), special needs patients, and very few exceptions for end of life compassionate care visits.  All need to be approved before they are allowed in the hospital.

Dallarda said Maui Health employees are reminded to “stay home if they are not feeling well and take advantage of the COVID-19 benefits in place to protect employees’ time off and pay if they are home awaiting test results.”

“We also ask all residents to please help prevent additional cases in the community and hospital by being responsible in your day-to-day activities. Please wear a mask any time you leave your home, keep a safe distance from others when you’re out grocery shopping or running errands, especially in indoor spaces, refrain from gathering with anyone outside of your immediate household, and practice good hand hygiene and cleaning protocols in your home and at your workplace,” Dallarda said.

Maui Health administrators described the situation as an evolving one and said they will continue to share updates with the community as appropriate.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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