State health officials on Maui say they are seeing early signs of increased COVID-19 cases.
State epidemiologist Sarah Kemble told media this morning via Zoom from the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center that while cases appear to be mild at this time, she encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted.
The Maui wildfires, which started on August 8 and turned Lahaina Town’s Front Street into ash, forced thousands of people to flee their homes.
As a result of the disaster, several congregate shelters were established throughout Central Maui to assist displaced residents.
Kemble said testing at these shelters was available. “Testing for COVID is not top-of-mind when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep,” she said.
Those shelters have since closed, and more than 2,900 people are being housed in 12 hotels on Maui in collaboration with the American Red Cross.
COVID-19 Surge and Protective Measures: Insights from Maui’s Health Official
Kemble reported 14 new COVID cases daily on Maui, including flu cases. In the past week, 112 cases of coronavirus were reported. A new variant, BA2.86, has been reported, but no confirmed cases have been reported in Hawai’i.
While she could not pinpoint the exact cause of the increase in cases, Kemble advised people to wear N95 masks if they were staying in a shelter or other public places.
She stated that these masks are also useful for those returning to areas affected by wildfires in order to protect themselves from smoke, ash, and debris.
Kemble stated that health care workers are not only observing the disease in immunocompromised children but also in elderly patients.
“Don’t delay. Take care of your health,” she said.
Vaccines and booster shots are available at pharmacies and the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center.
Source: MAUI NOW