Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Kona Coronavirus Cluster Swells to 12

April 14, 2020, 3:23 PM HST
* Updated April 16, 12:36 AM
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If recent research is any indication, fast food workers should do just fine under new minimum wage proposals.

UPDATE: This article incorrectly stated that the cluster swelled to 14, including seven McDonald’s employees and seven family members. The numbers were actually 12 total cases, with six employees and six family members. State officials counted one person twice in each column, accidentally providing the media with inaccurate information. 

A cluster of coronavirus cases in Kailua-Kona has swelled from eight to 12 overnight and left both McDonald’s locations in West Hawai‘i closed indefinitely.

Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson confirmed the cluster and its origin at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, saying six food service workers and six members of a family have tested positive for COVID-19.

The family belongs to the McDonald’s employee with whom the state believes the infections began. He returned positive test results on Thursday, April 9. The establishment was closed and began the process of disinfection the following day.

“This shows how quickly the disease can be spread,” Anderson said. “Other contacts have been identified. Everyone who we believe was in close contact is being quarantined at this time. We will have more results in a few days on additional sampling that was done in association with the outbreak.”

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Anderson added he’s confident there was no spread to customers due to the cluster. He credited social distancing and viral barriers employed by the restaurant as the reasons why, saying the restaurant “did everything right.”

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However, Anderson admitted the state hasn’t spoken to any potentially affected customers.

“We can’t say for sure that no one was (infected),” Anderson said. “We haven’t received any reports of people being ill.”

Spread among food service workers has been a common problem across the country, he continued. Masks worn at restaurants aren’t about protecting the food but protecting coworkers from one another.

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One of those infected as part of the cluster has been transported from Kona to O‘ahu for treatment. All are currently in isolation.

McDonald’s wasn’t immediately identified by name as the establishment in question, though Anderson said there was no attempt to hide the location of the cluster.

“It’s not a secret,” Anderson said. “We typically don’t advertise (names).”

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