HOPE Services employee tests positive for COVID-19

HOPE Services reported its first case of COVID-19 Saturday — an employee who works at the Kihei Pua shelter family shelter in Hilo.

The employee, who last worked Aug. 27, immediately notified a supervisor upon learning that a family member may been exposed to the virus, the nonprofit said in a press release. The employee has been in isolation since Aug. 30.

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Although an initial test came back negative, HOPE Services said the employee remained in isolation while follow-up testing was performed. The second test, returned Thursday afternoon, yielded a positive result.

“Staff, vendors and shelter residents who may have come into close contact with the employee have been notified. Kihei Pua staff and residents were tested last week and received negative results,” HOPE Services said in a press release.

A second round of testing was performed Thursday at Kihei Pua, as well as at five additional shelters in Hilo and Pahoa, including Hale Maluhia, Keolahou, Hale Hanakahi, Ohea House and Sacred Heart Shelter.

A total of 98 people were tested. No additional details on the results or when they might be received was provided.

The nonprofit said staff members met Friday to discuss contingency plans “should there be a surge among the houseless community.” The discussions included converting an existing shelter into an isolation facility or to request vacant hotel rooms or vacation rentals for frontline staff.

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Officials from Mayor Harry Kim’s office and the Department of Health and Gov. David Ige’s coordinator on homelessness also took part to share information on how Oahu handled a recent surge.

“What we’ve learned is that our community needs more isolation and quarantine units in order to be better prepared for increased COVID positive surges,” said HOPE Services CEO Brandee Menino. “While we hope the virus will be contained quickly, we are preparing for a worst case scenario, where those who need to isolate outnumber the units HOPE, the County and the Department of Health have. Part of our preparation includes asking for help from those who can provide it.”

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