Some worry ‘there’s no contingency plan’ for COVID at Hawaii’s public housing

Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 10:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An employee at Mayor Wright Public Housing has tested positive for COVID-19 and some are concerned about how the Hawaii Public Housing Authority is handling the situation.

Out of the housing authority's 85 properties, this is the first case of an employee infection on the property.

While all the staff and residents at the Kalihi complex were eventually notified of this case, one employee, who asked to remain anonymous, feels the agency is not taking care of its staff properly.

“There’s no uniformity, there’s no contingency plan,” said the employee.

After a colleague became infected, the staff was told to get tested on their own, but he said the agency should arrange it for them and pay for any time off.

“It’s unfair to the workers since we’re deemed essential workers, mandated to work, but when we get sick they don’t take care of us, we don’t get hazard pay, they’re not going to pay for the time off we have to make,” said the worker.

“We want to make sure that they talk freely to the doctor and let the doctor decide whether they should have a test,” said Hakim Ouansafi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.

Ouansafi said if employees are required to quarantine and cannot work from home, they should apply for aid from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The executive director also said the agency has done its best to notify those who may have been in contact with the sick worker.

“We started immediately with the one family that we are aware of that the person had repaired something there,” said Quansafi. “Staff that worked alongside of them in this case, there are not a lot at all.”

Those workers were notified Saturday night while everyone else in the complex was notified Monday.

The agency has also suspended face to face meetings between employees and residents and if emergency repairs are needed, tenants are asked to isolate or leave the unit. “Out of the 40,000 tenants, so far we are aware of 14 active cases in different properties,” said Quansafi.

The agency has also been working to implement new safety measures, which will be shared at an emergency board meeting on Tuesday.

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