(BIVN) – Mayor Harry Kim said on Tuesday morning that a recent jump in COVID-19 cases on Hawaiʻi island is attributed to “a fast food establishment employee contact with fellow employees and family.”
UPDATE – During a 2:30 p.m. news conference today, State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson finally identified the McDonald’s restaurant in Kona as the business where the limited, localized community spread of COVID-19 occurred. After the news conference, the state DOH wrote:
The establishment has closed its operation and performed enhanced cleaning. The twelve (12) employees who have tested positive are in isolation and exposed employees without symptoms are self-quarantined at home. Two individuals are both employees and live in the same household. The investigation is ongoing and based on findings so far, DOH does not believe this outbreak poses a risk to the general public. The department is continuing to work with the restaurant to ensure all possible precautions are being taken to prevent further spread of disease. There is no risk to the public, as only workers were involved, and the restaurant was taking necessary physical distancing measures to protect customers.
Big Island Video News will have more on this update, including the full remarks made by officials on the Kona COVID-19 cluster.
ORIGINAL STORY – Neither the State of Hawaiʻi or the County of Hawaiʻi would confirm specifically the name and location of the fast food establishment where this cluster occurred, other than to say it was in Kona. The county said it is not allowed to provide that information, “under State law concerning details about patients,” spokesperson Janet Snyder said.
The “establishment has closed since notification of a positive test result and remains closed,” the mayor said in his morning civil defense message. “The Department of Health is continuing the investigation and states that exposure to customers are unlikely due to previously implemented physical and procedural barriers made by the establishment.”
“All family and employees who have tested positive are in isolation and quarantine at home,” the mayor stated.
UPDATE – A State Joint Information Center spokesperson said “at this time, a risk to the public has not been identified and all those at risk have been notified directly and are taking precautions. Identifying the establishment is not necessary to prevent further spread of the disease.” The State Joint Information Center provided the following statement:
The Department of Health (DOH) is investigating a limited, localized community spread of COVID-19 among employees at a Kona food establishment. Fortunately, the restaurant, like many food establishments, had previously implemented social distancing measures to protect customers and prevent exposure prior to an employee testing positive. The establishment has closed its operation and performed enhanced cleaning. Employees who have tested positive are in isolation and exposed employees without symptoms are self-quarantined at home. The investigation is ongoing and based on findings thus far, DOH does not believe this outbreak poses a risk to the general public. The department is continuing to work with the restaurant to ensure all possible precautions are being taken to prevent further spread of disease.
Under a Hawaiʻi health department FAQ on COVID-19, the state offers this info on the question “can my employees or customers get sick with coronavirus (COVID-19) from food?”
- Currently there is no evidence that suggests food is associated with transmission of COVID-19.
- Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A, which often spread through contaminated food, COVID-19 is a virus that causes respiratory illness. Foodborne transmission is not expected at this time.
- As usual, it is important to follow good hygiene practices and safe food handling practices to keep food safe.
- COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person, so it is important that sick employees and sick customers stay home.
The Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense said this morning that the total number of people tested positive on Hawaiʻi island is 39. The state’s count is 40, and will be updated at noon today.