Multiple COVID-19 cases connected to Hawaii State Hospital temporarily halt construction at site

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Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials say there are now nine COVID-19 cases related to the Hawaii State Hospital and some of those cases temporarily halted construction at the Kaneohe campus.

Five of those who have tested positive are employees who don’t deal directly with patients.

The remaining four are construction contractors at Hensel Phelps, the company building a $160 million building at Hawaii State Hospital aimed at expanding its capacity at a separate location on campus.

“I feel that the fact that it’s taken this long for COVID to touch the hospital is a testament to their work, their energy into this,” said Eddie Mersereau, deputy director of Behavioral Health.

He says the cases are not considered a cluster.

"The reason why is because all of the individuals we've identified as positive have either indirect or peripheral contact with each other, if at all," he said.

Early Tuesday, hospital Administrator Run Heidelberg informed staff that “construction of the new patient facility was immediately shut down ‘until they get a handle on things’” and that it was a “precautionary measure by HP due to potential exposure(s) to COVID-19 over the long weekend.”

Health officials say construction was shut down Monday and resumed Thursday.

"They took very decisive and very immediate measures," said Mersereau.

But hospital staff are frustrated at the department’s response to the virus.

“My fellow nurses are pissed due to lack of transparency. On one hand, the hospital is ethically and morally right to protect individual workers who have tested positive to protect their privacy,” said one employee.

“On the other hand, they are leaving us in a lurch as they could give us some clues without naming individuals and protecting them from unfair stigma so many of us are resorting to social media.”

Mersereau responded the hospital is “doing everything that we can assure their safety and patient safety.”

“In fact, this morning testing is occurring on site as we speak for any folks who if they feel like they came in contact or are uncomfortable and would like to test,” he added.

Forty people have been tested so far and 10 came out negative. Test results at the State Lab are expected to take 24 hours. Mersereau says no patients ― or staff who deal directly with patients ― have been infected with the virus.

“The people at the state hospital are truly the heroes because they suit up and show up and come to work or work environment where there are a lot of different hazards that they face on a daily basis,” he said.

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