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30 HFD personnel sidelined after two test positive

Dozens of Hawaii Fire Department personnel are in quarantine after an active-duty employee and a recruit tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief Darren Rosario reported Sunday that the fire department employee and the recruit, who is currently employed in another Hawaii County department, had taken part in a recent EMT, or emergency medical technician, training.

Post-training, both were notified that of being a close contact to a person who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Rosario. The contact reportedly occurred while off-duty and both cases are unrelated.

Each was then tested and received a positive result. A total of 30 personnel from Hilo-, Puna- and Kona-based stations were subsequently ordered quarantined due to work-related contact with the two individuals, Rosario said. An additional five department employees are being monitored by the state Department of Health due to non-work-related exposure.

All but two are asymptomatic, or not exhibiting symptoms of the disease.

Rosario said the public shouldn’t be concerned about possible exposure to the virus.

“All HFD employees wear full Personal Protective Equipment while on emergency incidents,” he said. “Our fire stations are closed to the public aside for the purpose of emergencies.”

Rosario further stated Sunday that there was currently no breaks in service, adding that battalion chiefs are reassigning on-duty personnel and/or recalling off-duty personnel to cover any shortages.

“The department has internal measures in place that will provide for continued service to our community. These measures include, but are not limited to, movement of on-duty personnel, recalling of off-duty personnel, the use of outside agencies to offset gaps in coverage,” he said. “The community can rest assure that we will continue to respond to their emergencies.”

The positive test among an active-duty employee of the fire department is the second since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early August, a West Hawaii battalion chief tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The positive test resulted in four other personnel being quarantined until each received a negative test and were allowed to return to work.

Meanwhile, Sunday marked the 13th consecutive day of a double-digit increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases as Hawaii Island’s total case count surpassed 500.

A new death was also reported at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

Fourteen new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in Hawaii County Sunday bringing the island’s total case count to 506 since Feb. 28, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center. Since Aug. 25, the island’s case count has increased 376 cases — or 289% — since Aug. 25.

The 14 cases on Hawaii Island were among 164 new cases reported across the state on Sunday. Maui County reported three new cases and Oahu reported 146.

The state’s most populous island, Oahu, now has a total case count of 8,911 while Maui County’s rose to 354. Kauai County’s tally increase to 58 due to one test from Oahu being “re-categorized” to the island. To date, 26 residents have also tested positive while out of the state.

Of the 9,855 cases identified in Hawaii since Feb. 28, some 6,864 of those cases are still considered active. That includes 282 of the known cases on Hawaii Island.

Statewide, 597 COVID-19 patients have required hospitalization, including 21 on Hawaii Island, according to the center’s noon update.

The center also reported one new coronavirus-related death on Oahu, but provided no additional details.

Of the 85 deaths reported among Hawaii residents, 73 were on Oahu, eight were on Maui, three were on Hawaii Island, and one was a Kauai resident receiving treatment in Arizona at the time he died.

On Sunday, Hilo Medical Center reported a new death at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, bringing the total to seven.

That follows Avalon Healthcare, the managing company running the veterans home operations, on Saturday reporting no deaths and revising the death toll to five. According to the company, a PCR test came back negative following a rapid test that had returned positive for the novel coronavirus.

Hilo Medical Center Spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said Sunday evening that there was a “confirmation on a test result to bring the total to seven.”

The company also noted Sunday that based upon contact tracing, “we believe the virus entered the facility through an asymptomatic staff member who was exposed in the community. We do currently have a cluster of three or more residents and/or staff with new-onset respiratory symptoms in the last 72 hours.”

To date, 18 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center has yet to report Hawaii Island’s latest three deaths.

The department said it must confirm the death through a verification process before releasing the information. If confirmed, the statewide death toll will stand at 88.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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