As the race between vaccine and virus continues in the islands, Maui is grappling with several COVID-19 clusters.

Hawaii recorded an average of 64 cases daily across all islands last week, with a positive test rate of 1.4%.

Positive tests were highest on Maui, at 2.7%. An outbreak at the Maui Community Correctional Center continues and the Department of Public Safety says a dozen infections remain active. Community members are calling for an independent investigation of the outbreak, which has led to a total of 90 people contracting COVID-19 in the cluster centered at the facility since February. Slightly more than half of all MCCC inmates who qualified for vaccinations under Phase 1b opted in, but more inmates will be eligible for shots soon.

The state Department of Public Safety reported Maui Community Correctional Center has a dozen COVID-19 infections still active. Yoohyun Jung/Civil Beat/2019

Several other noteworthy clusters occurred during the past two weeks in Maui County, including four clusters tied to a bar or night club that developed into a total of 39 cases, according to a state Department of Health report. A religious gathering on Maui resulted in 24 people infected. Another three clusters associated with the Maui County tourism industry led to 16 infections, and a Maui school setting was tied to eight COVID-19 cases.

Oahu has seen clusters of its own, according to state investigators. Three different clusters categorized as “social gatherings” by health officials on Oahu led to a total of 31 COVID-19 infections. Another cluster associated with a restaurant ultimately included seven people, according to the DOH report. The largest cluster on Hawaii island in the last two weeks involved seven people and a common occupational setting, investigators said.

The state’s weekly COVID-19 cluster report does not specify the businesses or social settings associated with clusters.

Maui District Health Officer Lorrin Pang told Hawaii News Now he suspects the uptick in cases on Maui has to do with a new variant that may be more contagious, originally detected in California.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said Thursday he worries Maui County residents are becoming more complacent about virus prevention tactics.

“This is quite different from the community-wide spread we witnessed after the holiday season,” Victorino told HNN Thursday. “Although vaccines are here, herd immunity is still months away.”

COVID-19 vaccination progress by county 3/19/21 Department of Health

Maui County is running slightly behind other counties in its vaccine rollout, with 20.8% of its population inoculated with at least one dose. Kauai leads the way with 30.5% of its population having received one dose. On Oahu, that figure was 21.9% and in Hawaii County 22.2% as of Thursday.

A COVID-19 vaccine can be delivered in one or two doses, depending on the type.

Monday marked the launch of the next phase in Hawaii’s vaccine rollout, but officials winnowed the original list to prioritize hotel, restaurant, and bar employees first, rather than open it to all of those in 1c, including other essential worker categories such as the media.

Vaccination appointments are available only for the following groups of people: those 65 years or older, teachers, people on dialysis or who require oxygen due to severe respiratory disease, patients undergoing chemotherapy or other infusion therapy, and hotel, restaurant and bar employees.

New data that highlights disparities in the vaccine rollout to date showed Pacific Islanders, including Hawaiians, have been missing out on getting shots. So far, the Hawaii residents who identify as white or Asian are far more likely to have been vaccinated  compared to Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders or Black people.

The health department announced plans Friday to hold a vaccine clinic Saturday especially for elders from the Tongan community as well as Southeast Asian immigrant farmers. It will be hosted by the Inter-Agency Council for Immigrant and Refugee Services and the Trinity United Methodist Church.

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