HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eight Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants who attended training at the Honolulu headquarters have since tested positive for COVID-19, the carrier reported Thursday.
The airline says only one flight attendant worked on a flight prior to feeling sick, but didn’t say which flight.
Now 60 employees have been asked to self-quarantine.
A spokesman said it’s working with public health authorities to contact anyone else who might have been exposed and “reinforcing our office protocols to keep our employees safe.”
In a letter to employees Thursday, Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said the eight employees were attending a two-day training that included close interaction.
“In response, we have revised our training policies to reduce the risk of virus spread in these settings,” Ingram told employees. “We are also making sure that these valued members of our ‘ohana are receiving the proper medical care, and that we contact all who may have been in proximity.”
In the wake of the incident, Ingram also said that masks will be required (rather than recommended) when employees are walking around offices.
Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said those in the cluster had been told “masking was optional.”
The Association of Flight Attendants says training was postponed for a period of time and only recently resumed. It’s asking Hawaiian Airlines to immediately review its COVID-19 safety measures for training.
Robin Sparling, Hawaiian Airlines vice president of in-flight services told employees about new safety protocols, including heavy cleaning and fogging, required masks, gloves for hands-on activities, instructors to enforce social distancing and additional sanitizing stations.
The Hawaiian Airlines cluster comes one month before Hawaii reopens tourism on Aug. 1.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Hawaii has one of the lowest infection and death rates in the country, but he’s stressing caution especially as people gather for the holiday weekend.
“We are very mindful of what’s going on in the mainland and that surge,” he said. “Please no one should think that we are not completely attentive to the extra cases in Florida, California, Texas.”
Park says infections can’t be blamed on a specific profession or location, but gatherings in general.
“It is the act of gathering and letting our guard down, not wearing a mask,” she said.
Hawaiian Airlines says training has been canceled for two weeks so deep cleaning can happen and then more rigorous protocols will be in place.