With COVID cases at an all-time high, leaders worry about Hawaii’s rural communities

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Published: Aug. 22, 2021 at 5:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State leaders are showing their concern for rural and suburban areas where COVID cases are on the upswing, and the vaccination rate has plateaued.

On Sunday, Molokai reported 11 cases, continuing an upward trend with 59 total infections reported in the last two weeks.

The isolated community has limited medical resources, and state leaders hope the situation doesn’t get out of hand.

“It was expected. We still have a gatherings occurring,” State Sen. Lynn DeCoite said. “We had five funerals this weekend and, you know, while people are trying to lay their loved ones to rest it, they have been waiting for awhile. You know, they just gotta be careful.”

And, you know, the close contacts is evident. While we lack enforcement to make sure that people will be reminded, we constantly remind other people to continue to wear your mask,” she added.

DeCoite also expressed concern for Hana, another area she represents in Maui County, that she says has 22 active cases.

Meanwhile, Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu was forced to a state of emergency last Friday due to a rush of hospitalizations. The state senator from that area is making a call to the public to utilize mobile vaccine clinics.

“Ewa Beach got hit hard before the vaccine. And now we’re getting hit even harder because now we are letting our guard up,” said state Sen. Kurt Fevella, (R) Ewa Beach.

Fevella believes the vaccine hesitancy is due in large part to “a lot of misinformation and in not having trust in our government and in our healthcare system.”

But he also said many in his community can’t get their shots because they work at two jobs and have to rely on mass transit to get around.

“They cannot get off the bus, stand in line, go get the shot and get over there and catch the bus,” he said. “They work 8 to 16 hours a day. They don’t have time for that.”

Hawaii Pacific Health’s Carl Hinson agrees. He said Hawaii Pacific Health plans to add a second vaccination bus later this week to reach more people in their neighborhoods.

“Early on, we had a lot of success at Pier 2. It was an amazing operation,” he said. “But it became very clear that a lot of our community couldn’t get out to the pier so we developed a strategy to get out and get in the communities.”

Among those who got vaccinated Sunday was Andrii Rudenko, who turned 12 just a few days ago. He got his shot at the Puuloa Neighborhood Park in Ewa Beach.

“I didn’t feel any pain at all a pinch, that’s it,” he said. “We gotta fight the coronavirus and I want to stay as safe as possible.”

The mobile vaccination clinic put on by Hawaii Pacific Health is part of the push by state and healthcare leaders to stem the wave of infections hitting the Leeward Oahu community.

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