HOPE Services returns no positive COVID-19 tests among staff, residents after employee tested positive

All 98 HOPE Services shelter residents and staff tested last week for COVID-19 have received negative results, the organization announced Monday.

HOPE Services reported its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday among an employee who last worked at the Kihei Pua family shelter in Hilo on Aug. 27. According to the organization, the employee immediately notified a supervisor upon learning that a family member may been exposed to the virus and went into isolation. Although an initial test came back negative, a positive result was returned Thursday.

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Staff, vendors and shelter residents who may have come into close contact with the employee were notified and tested with negative results.

A second round of testing was conducted Thursday at Kihei Pua, we 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 with each receiving a negative result, said CEO Brandee Menino on Monday.

Testing at Kona shelters is planned this week, she said.

In the wake of the positive test, HOPE Services staff and state and county officials met to discuss contingency plans should a surge in cases occur in the homeless community, as did last month on Oahu.

“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,” Menino said over the weekend. “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.”

On Monday, she urged the community to take action.

“If you have available properties that could be used for isolation or quarantine sites, call Talmadge Magno at Civil Defense,” she said. Civil Defense can be reached by calling 935-0031.

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The organization is also in need of space for staff in the event of exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“If WHT readers have available vacation rental properties that they’d like to donate the use of their properties to HOPE for HOPE staff who may need to be quarantined or isolated from their families due to COVID exposure while doing this essential work at HOPE, contact me,” said Menino, who can be reached at info@hopeserviceshawaii.org.

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