At least five people — four residents and one employee — at Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Honolulu have tested positive for COVID-19, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported, citing Avalon Health Care Group, the facility’s parent company.
The staff member was first confirmed to be positive on June 12 after being exposed to an infected person outside of the nursing home. The four residents, all of whom are a part of the same unit as the infected employee, later tested positive. At least one resident has been hospitalized while the other three are currently in isolation.
Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center began testing all residents and staff on June 16 and will continue to do so over the next few weeks, per the newspaper. Overall, the nursing home employees some 550 people. About 250 residents live at the facility.
“The outbreak so far is confined to one ward that has 17 total residents. You keep on testing weekly until no positives are found so that you know this facility is disease-free,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, who owns Premier Medical Group Hawaii, which is conducting the COVID-19 tests.
“This is a respiratory virus that bodies have never seen. Until we develop a vaccine, this will continue to spread. People should not be listening to any myths that the summer or change in weather will lessen our exposure,” he added, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The nursing home is only allowing “essential visitors or vendors” to enter, who must be screened before entering and wear personal protective equipment, such as a face mask, while inside.
“The most important thing we can do to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes is to ensure facilities are implementing proven infection control procedures,” Janice Okubo, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Health, told the newspaper.
“Unfortunately, not all clusters are avoidable, but having sound infection control strategies in place can minimize the frequency and extent of clusters of COVID-19 in nursing homes,” she added.
The news comes after the Aloha State’s Gov. David Ige extended the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers earlier this month in a bid to keep coronavirus cases in the islands low.
Ige said the rule is being extended to the end of July as the state works to solidify a screening process that could soon allow travelers to return in some capacity.
Officials said they are planning to install thermal screening stations and facial recognition technology at the airports by the end of the year. Ige said the technology would be used only to track people within the airport during the screening process.
Ige enacted a mandatory self-quarantine for all arriving tourists and residents in March.
Hawaii has among the lowest COVID-19 infection and mortality rates in the nation. To date, Hawaii has reported 744 cases of COVID-19 and 17 virus-linked deaths, according to official estimates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.