HMC: No visitors allowed

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald A medical professional walks past the Hilo Medical Center sign Thursday before entering the hospital in Hilo.

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald Medical professionals walk and stand near the COVID-19 restriction rules Thursday outside Hilo Medical Center in Hilo. Both professionals wore medical masks around their necks before going inside.

Hilo Medical Center will implement a no-visitor policy starting Monday in the battle against COVID-19.

Hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said there will be exceptions for births, children who are hospitalized, and with the guidance of physicians caring for end-of-life patients.


“We know those are very momentous occasions for families, but we really want to keep our patients and our hospital free of COVID-19, so we really appreciate everybody’s understanding as we tighten these visitation restrictions,” she said Thursday.

HMC also announced that everyone entering the hospital, including staff, will now be required to wear a mask — a move that will become mandatory next Thursday — and the hospital is now calling on the community to donate hand-sewn masks.

Although a stay-at-home order is in place, restricting activity through much of Hilo, Cabatu said HMC continues to be “quite a hub of activity.”

The hospital’s 1,300 employees are deemed essential workers, and at any given time there are between 400-600 people there, she said, and as federal agencies are moving to recommend wearing masks in the community, HMC “decided we wanted to stay ahead of the curve, (asking) everyone coming up to the hospital to please put a mask on so we can essentially keep our germs to ourselves.”

According to the Associated Press, the Trump administration is formalizing a plan to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The recommendations, which were still being finalized Thursday, are expected to apply to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus, the AP reports. A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said officials would suggest that nonmedical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy.

Medical-grade masks, particularly N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

According to Cabatu, the homemade masks “will really just help prevent the spread of germs,” but medical-grade personal protective equipment will still be provided to medical staff if required for patient care.

Cabatu said as of March 26, HMC had 45,000 surgical masks and about 6,400 N95 masks.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the hospital typically used 17 of the N95 masks a day, meaning there would be approximately 383 days of that equipment on hand.

The hospital also has 568,000 individual gloves in its supplies, or about 36 days of regular usage; 12,600 gowns, or 76 days of regular usage; and 2,400 face shields, or enough for 91 days of regular use.

If the hospital escalates to stage III of its COVID-19 emergency management response, meaning that there are two or more community-acquired cases in East Hawaii, Cabatu said the use of N95 masks is anticipated to go up to 50 per day, amounting to a 128-day supply.

During its fourth stage, meaning there are 15 or more COVID-19 patients, she said the hospital would use 83 N95 masks a day, meaning the supply would be exhausted in about 77 days.

Cabatu said the hospital has received additional shipments this week, has orders out for additional supplies, and has amassed a number of pallets of donated supplies to use if and when a visitor needs a mask to enter the facility.

That’s why HMC is asking employees and community members to “find and acquire their own handmade masks,” she said. “So we don’t burn through the supplies at the hospital. These cloth masks save us from having to utilize the supplies we have on hand and (help the hospital) conserve and preserve those supplies.”

HMC had previously focused on collecting donations of medical-grade supplies and continues to seek donations of N95 and surgical masks, face shields, safety goggles, gowns, Tyvek suits and nitrile gloves in original and unopened packaging, and new or gently worn scrubs, in addition to the homemade masks.

Donations will be accepted from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday at HMC’s Human Resources Office, located below the hospital at the corner of Rainbow Drive and Waianuenue Avenue. Call 932-3150 for information.


The mask and visitation policies will remain in place until April 30, at which time HMC will re-evaluate the need for such rules, said Cabatu.

Email Stephanie Salmons at

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