Testing in full force on Lanai ahead of stay-at-home order

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Updated: Oct. 24, 2020 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Lanai will be placed under a stay-at-home order on Tuesday amid a rapidly growing COVID-19 outbreak on the island, Maui County’s mayor said.

Saturday morning, concerned residents lined up their vehicles for drive-thru testing. Staff from the Lanai Community Health Center were on hand to administer the tests.

Those who got tested are being told to isolate until their test results come in, probably around Monday.

The rush of testing comes as the rural island had a confirmed case count of 63 as of Saturday, health officials said.

And the state Education Department announced 15 cases among students at Lanai High & Elementary.

“There are more cases. We see them coming," said Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino. “To the people of Lanai: We are right now doing everything humanly possible to protect your health."

The stay-at-home order for Lanai still must be approved by the governor . If it is approved, the emergency order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Victorino said the order, which will stay in effect for at least 14 days, means that all incoming travelers will need to quarantine for 14 days unless they are there for essential business. Residents will be allowed to leave their homes for essential activities only and gatherings will be banned.

Lanai has seen the number of new infections soar in recent days, prompting the island’s only public school to move to remote learning only and leaving many residents scrambling for supplies.

[Read more: 15 students at Lanai High and Elementary School test positive for COVID-19]

Victorino said that Tylenol was sold out on the island so his office sent 100 bottles on Friday afternoon to medical facilities and will be sending more supplies in the coming days.

The first four cases on the island were reported Tuesday and new infections have been identified daily. Before this week, Lanai (population: 3,000) had seen no COVID-19 cases.

The state Health Department is scrambling to conduct contact tracing, and said there is evidence a “couple of large social gatherings” contributed to the outbreak. Household transmission is also being blamed for the rapid rise in cases. One case had a history of travel to Oahu.

[Read more: Hospitals on Maui, Oahu on alert as COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai grows]

Victorino said the delay in implementing the stay-at-home order is designed to allow residents and visitors to prepare, and give any travelers a chance to leave the island.

Amid the outbreak on Lanai, the state has sent protective equipment and thousands of masks to the island. Medical health professionals have also been deployed, and mass testing is underway.

There are also crews sanitizing common areas, including at Lanai High & Elementary School.

On Thursday, the streets of Lanai City were quiet and most people were only going out for essentials.

“We are concerned definitely but we are definitely going to be hunkering down,” said Gail Allen, a Lanai resident and boutique owner.

She said like other non-essential businesses, she has voluntarily shut down her store, the Hula Hut.

“We closed down today just to be safe,” she said.

State Rep. Lynn DeCoite, whose district includes Lanai, said she observed 15 National Guard contact tracers at UH Maui College. Three of the initial cases are workers at the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay, she said.

She also mentioned that the bulk of the cases are in the Pacific Island community and was likely spread at a funeral.

“Today everyone is just scrambling to get whatever they can to Lanai,” she said.

Pulama Lanai, the largest employer on Lanai, is offering housing to those who need to be isolated.

Lanai resident Nick Palumbo says he’s hunkering down with his family and there’s no rush to the store because Lanai residents have been stocked up for months.

“The mood is more serious here,” he said.

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.

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