State reports signs of rise in COVID-19 cases on Maui
State health officials say they are seeing early signs of increased COVID-19 cases on the island of Maui.
This morning, state epidemiologist Sarah Kemble, spoke from the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center to media over Zoom that cases seem to be mild at this time, however, she encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted.
The Maui wildfires, that ignited on Aug. 8 and turned Lahaina Town’s Front Street into ash, forced thousands to flee their homes. In response to the disaster, several congregate shelters were opened throughout Central Maui to help the displaced residents.
Kemble said testing at these shelters was available. “Testing for COVID is not top-of-mind when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep,” she said.
Those shelters have since closed and more than 2,900 individuals are sheltered at 12 hotel locations around Maui, in coordination with the American Red Cross.
Kemble said there are 14 new COVID cases per day on Maui, including cases of the flu. Over the past week, 112 coronavirus cases were reported. A new variant, BA2.86 has been reported but there are no confirmed cases in Hawai‘i.
While she couldn’t say the exact cause of the increase in cases, Kemble advised people to wear N95 masks if they are staying at a shelter and other public places. She said these masks are also helpful to those returning to areas impacted by wildfires to protect from smoke, ash and debris.
Kemble said health workers aren’t seeing the illness in older immune-comprised people but also in children.
“Don’t delay. Take care of your health,” she said.
Boosters and vaccines are available at pharmacies and the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center.
The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe in 2020. It wasn’t until May that the World Health Organization determined the virus to be an ongoing health issue, no longer a public health emergency of international concern.
Since the beginning the pandemic, there have been 44,931 cases on Maui.