The state Department of Health reported 56 new cases on Maui on Thursday, the island’s highest daily total to date and a spike that county officials said may be due to holiday gatherings.
“Today’s number is certainly concerning, but not unexpected,” Mayor Michael Victorino said in a news release Thursday evening. “Our medical advisers anticipated a dramatic surge in cases after the holidays. We are watching the numbers very carefully, but we do hope to see a downward trend toward later this month. In the meantime, we are enforcing existing public health rules and working with Governor Ige to institute some new restrictions.”
Hawaii overall saw a sharp increase Thursday with 322 new cases, the highest daily number since Aug. 29 when there were 310, the DOH said. Due to a reporting lag from a laboratory, 30 of Thursday’s cases were backdated from between Dec. 20 and Jan. 5. Health officials did not say whether any of the 30 old cases were part of Maui’s count Thursday.
Molokai and Lanai did not have any new cases, putting Maui County’s case total at 1,304, with 1,175 on Maui, 106 on Lanai and 23 on Molokai.
The 56 cases reported on Maui topped the former record of 33 new cases reported on Christmas Eve, though officials said at the time that the load included several old cases.
The cases reported Thursday came from households in all areas of Maui island, the county said, which is why Maui District Health Office officials believe the spike stemmed from holiday gatherings. All cases have been assigned to investigators with results pending, the county said.
Areas with the most recent cases include Kahului (zip code 96732), which has seen 100 cases over the past 14 days, according to DOH data, and the Wailuku-to-Kahakuloa area (96793), which has had 65 cases. South Maui (96753) is also a hotspot with 60 cases along with West Maui (96761) at 53 cases over the past two weeks.
Kahului’s high case count is likely due in part to a cluster at the Harbor Lights condominium complex, which had reached 75 cases as of Wednesday.
Minit Medical Urgent Care tested about 250 more people at Harbor Lights on Thursday and found nine new positive cases, the county said.
Government officials and nonprofits also brought supplies and food to the complex for residents in quarantine. Maui County delivered 10,000 gloves, 4,000 masks, 100 face shields, hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizers, disinfectant cleaning solutions and four infrared thermometers. Feed My Sheep distributed 10,400 pounds of food to residents Thursday. Maui Brewing Co. donated cases of hand sanitizer while United Health Care plans to donate and deliver diapers today to the complex.
Spencer Headley, an epidemiology specialist with the Maui District Health Office, said in an email that over the past three weeks, cases have grown within several different households of Harbor Lights.
In addition to the two on-site testing events, the office has continued to monitor residents and coordinate food services to households in quarantine until family members are able to safely reenter the community, Headley said.
“Supporting residents’ needs while they isolate and quarantine is key so that they do not need to venture out to get food and medicine. We hope all residents in the county are prepared to do so if ever needed,” Headley added.
The county said that additional donations will be accepted at the Harbor Lights security guard shack near the entrance to the University of Hawaii Maui College on Kahului Beach Road, outside of the complex.
DOH’s weekly cluster report issued Thursday showed one large cluster of 69 cases connected to a social gathering in Maui County. A DOH spokesman said it was a fair assumption that the cluster noted was the one at Harbor Lights. The report also listed one cluster of 12 cases connected to a restaurant, one cluster of six cases attributed to a bar or nightclub and one cluster of three cases associated with a gym over the past two weeks.
Victorino said in the news release Thursday that he had approved additional funding for Maui police officers to continue and increase enforcement of public health guidelines, including mask wearing and maintaining limits on social gatherings.
Maui County is also providing free COVID-19 testing for all Maui residents. Participants do not need to have insurance or meet any criteria to be tested. For details, or to book an appointment, visit minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19.
Residents may also call the Maui County COVID-19 hotline from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except holidays) at 270-7855 for additional information.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.