Big Island Coronavirus Updates

No McDonald’s Customers Infected With COVID-19 in Overnight Spike, Mayor Says

April 18, 2020, 11:26 AM HST
* Updated April 18, 2:41 PM
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Harry Kim. Photo by Josh Pacheco.

This article has been updated from its original version to include more specific details. 

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim said the significant spike of positive COVID-19 cases reported on the Big Island Saturday morning was tied directly and completely to the case cluster connected to McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona.

Every case was either an employee or family member of an employee, Kim said, but none were customers. However, the state Department of Health told Big Island Now in an email that 14 of the 17 cases were related to the cluster, saying three were unrelated.

DOH said the 17 new Big Island cases reported overnight brought the case cluster total to 29, including 17 employees and 12 family members of employees.

While no customers have yet tested positive, several reports have come into Big Island Now that McDonald’s employees, some of whom work at multiple Kailua-Kona locations, did not universally practice social distancing measures. An Ocean View couple who fell ill three days after visiting the McDonald’s location on Makala Blvd. — across from Kona Commons, where the initial outbreak was reported — were tested for COVID-19 late in the week. Test results are pending.

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The spike in positive results brought the Hawai‘i County coronavirus case total up from 42 to 59, according to Civil Defense. The state Department of Health may report a higher number when it releases its official daily data around noon on Saturday. DOH reported the Big Island tally at 44 at noon Friday, two more than the county had reported Friday morning.

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Drive through testing will be conducted at the Hilo Civic Center on Sunday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and in Kona at the Keauhou Shopping Center Monday, April 20 from 8 a.m. until noon and Thursday, April 23 from 8 a.m. until noon.

Screenings will also be conducted in Ocean View at St. Jude Episcopal Church on Wednesday, April 22. From 10 a.m. to noon, only those who’ve been prescreened via telehealth will be tested. From noon to 2 p.m., there will be limited on-site screening with testing if needed.

Mayor Kim stressed Saturday that anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should take advantage of this increased testing, as early detection and subsequent quarantine is the only real way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

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The mayor also noted that his administrative rule to keep several county beaches accessible to residents for ocean use, sustenance fishing and the use of public restrooms/showers was not in contradiction or defiance of Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation that closed state beaches on all islands until April 30.

Rather, Kim said the county’s publicizing of his rule, which came after Ige’s announcement Friday, was simply to clarify. The mayor has stressed social distancing repeatedly but has also been a strong advocate for the physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors during the current lockdown.

Also part of Ige’s proclamation is increased social distancing mandates for those who do venture out over the next two weeks. New, more stringent guidelines include limiting groups outdoors to two people unless every person in the group is a member of the same residential family. Cloth masks will also be required for anyone entering an essential business until April 30.

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