Health officials work to contain cluster of COVID-19 cases in a Kalihi housing project

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Updated: May. 13, 2020 at 6:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state reported three new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, and officials confirm they’re linked to a cluster of patients at Kalihi Valley Homes.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson says seven people at the public housing project have tested positive — all in the same family.

Hakim Ouansafi, head of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority, found out about the cluster at the housing project late Wednesday. It wasn’t the Department of Health who notified him.

Instead, it was HNN’s inquiry that alerted him to the cluster.

Just after noon, staff descended on Kalihi Valley Homes, going door-to-door handing out masks and urging people to take extra precautions.

“We have also placed a phone call and an email to the Department of Health trying to get any additional information that will help us,” Ouansafi said

At the governor’s press conference Wednesday afternoon, Anderson confirmed the cluster was identified two weeks ago and said it’s made up of both adults and children.

“They have a total of seven cases now associated with this extended family situation,” Anderson said. “We have been working with the management of the facility for quite some time.”

The head of the housing authority disputes that.

Oaunsafi says he wasn’t contacted until after he inquired about the cases.

After checking with his staff he could find only one on-site worker who was told by a public health nurse Monday that she was doing outreach on a single case.

He says despite the failure of communication there’s been a continuous effort at public housing projects across the state to keep residents safe.

Ouansafi said, “It started as simple CDC fliers translated in all languages to contacting the tenants giving them guidance, telling them to wash their hands. We have provided masks to every single tenant.”

Gathering in common areas has also been banned. The agency even went as far as to set aside five empty units at each complex in case someone needed to quarantine.

Something state health officials were clearly not aware of.

Anderson told reporters, “The end result is everyone needs to be quarantined or isolated who’s positive and in these conditions it’s particularly difficult to isolate individuals.”

Ouansafi says they have hired a cleaning crew to bolster sanitation efforts — and will continue to provide residents with masks and cleaning supplies as needed.

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