Cluster of COVID-19 cases growing on Lanai with at least 20 known infections

Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 10:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just a day after Lanai reported its first COVID-19 cases, the island’s medical facilities said they have recorded 20 positive cases so far.

Earlier Wednesday, state officials said 12 additional infections had been identified.

Heidi Taogoshi, of the Maui District Health Office, said all of those who have tested positive are residents. They are all isolating at home; none have been hospitalized.

Medical staffers fear the number will rise rapidly.

“There are 20 positive COVID cases on Lanai. And this is going to explode tomorrow,” said Jared Medeiros of the Lanai Community Health Center. “It’s going up exponentially so I think the real problem here is that everybody needs to understand that we need to completely lock down.”

“Many of us are of the opinion that you don’t have a double-digit number of cases on Lanai, you have a triple-digit number of cases on Lanai, and you could have as many as much as ten percent of your population positive by next week,” said Dr. Lee Weiss, the emergency medicine chairman at Maui Health.

Four COVID-19 cases were reported on Lanai on Tuesday ― three people who work at the same location and a fourth person who is a healthcare worker who does not provide direct care.

Posted by County of Maui on Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The cases may be linked to travel, but it’s not clear if the travel was inter-island or to the mainland.

Lanai, whose population is just under 3,000, had previously seen no COVID-19 infections diagnosed on island. Two Lanai residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19 while off island.

State and county officials have long considered a COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai as a worst-case scenario, pointing out that the island’s healthcare system is ill-equipped to handle a surge in patients.

“I’m expecting it to be pretty widespread. And we know that when we find cases by testing and contact tracing and all -- we proBably will only find a quarter of the cases,” said Dr. Lorrin Pang of the Department of Health’s Maui district office. "For every case we know about, there’s like three out there that we don’t know. "

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said Lanai has no ventilators and any patients needing care beyond the island’s capacity would have to be flown to Maui.

“There are arrangements in place and protocols to transfer any patients that need more acute care to Maui Memorial Hospital or any other hospital in the state that may be more appropriate,” he said.

The island’s health facilities are bracing for more positive test results. The community health center is still waiting on 136 test results, while Straub Medical Center’s Lanai clinic, which had three of the positive cases, still has some 50 tests pending.

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