Mayor Harry Kim on Thursday said he will not isolate the community of Miloli‘i as requested by island legislators.
The entirety of Hawaii Island’s delegation asked Kim on Wednesday to restrict access to and test all residents of the Miloli‘i Fishing Village in South Kona after rumors of COVID-19 cases racking up.
The letter stated, “It is our understanding there are at least 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the village and with the upcoming Labor Day weekend, we strongly believe an entry control point (should) be immediately established so that village access is limited to residents only.”
Kim said there is a misunderstanding with some of the numbers, which leads to anxiety and what’s happening elsewhere.
“It’s important that people know the whole issue here,” he said. “All individuals associated with the gathering at Miloli‘i have been identified and contacted by the Department of Health.”
Kim added all positive cases from this cluster are now isolated and being monitored by the DOH and all individuals associated with the gathering at Miloli‘i have been identified and contacted.
“We have the names of every single person that had attended that gathering,” he said noting that the 30 individuals who attended the party are also isolated and monitored.
Kim said 10 individuals associated with the gathering have tested positive for the virus.
“The majority of cases identified as positive attending the party don’t live in Miloli‘i,” he said. “They live in Kona.”
Kim said he watches the numbers every day and plans his next move based on statistics.
“We knew cases were starting to increase in Hilo and Puna because of a rumored cluster,” he said.
Based on the location of positive cases, testing is scheduled to identify clusters.
“We are different from other counties because we contracted when the CARES money was available with private clinics like Premier (Medical Group) and Ali‘i (Health Center),” he said. “The contract says ready-to-mobilize testing within 12 hours. We tell them where and when.”
He said testing held this week in Pahoa and Keaau were scheduled after case numbers in Puna started to increase late last week.
“It showed that as soon as they got information from the clinics on the 29th that we had the first report of Miloli‘i we started to look at it closer,” he said.
Kim said a testing clinic has been set for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Miloli‘i Beach community at the old village area county park. Because of the roads leading to the park, the testing will only be for members of the beach community.
Kim said he was not going to limit access to the community as requested by the legislators.
“I am not going to isolate Miloli‘i because all of them have been identified and all who are positive have been isolated and identified,” he said. “It does not seem necessary at this time to shut it down. Imagine with the numbers that came out of Keaukaha; do people expect me to isolate Keaukaha?”
He said he bases policy on solid reasoning.
“I know the letter stated that Miloli‘i is a small town and 10 is a big number, but 10 are not from Miloli‘i and even if they were all from Miloli‘i, that in itself wouldn’t warrant isolating Miloli‘i,” Kim said. “When we test Puna, are we going to isolate Pahoa?”
Kim said his office has been getting calls about locking down the island or the Hilo area because of the numbers. He said he has no plans to take those measures, rather opting to close beach parks starting today.
“What I did was because of the constant reports about gatherings and the constant reports about people not paying attention to the rules of face masking, gatherings and social distancing, coupled with the fact that this weekend is a huge holiday,” he said. “Hawaii is known for large beach gatherings on Fourth of July and Labor Day. We knew there were problems with gatherings and I did not want to risk any kind of gathering that would cause a huge increase so I made closure of all beaches and beach parks from Sept. 4 to (7 a.m.) Sept. 19 for that reason, not because of the numbers game, but to prevent a huge number.”
He said there was a rumor that the Hilo explosion was because of a gathering at a beach.
“It may be or it may not — but it was a gathering, and it was illegal,” he noted. “I wanted to mitigate any possibility of gathering causing more spread of the disease.”
He emphasized beach activities of exercising, fishing, food gathering, use of restroom and shower facilities and access to the ocean will be allowed, but the Hawaii Police Department will continue enforcement.
“This is a community issue and will take community involvement,” Kim said.