HOPE Services worker has COVID

HOPE Services has reported its first case of COVID-19, after receiving news that an employee who works at the Kihei Pua family shelter in Hilo tested positive.  HOPE Services manages most of the island’s homeless and transitional shelters.

The employee, who last worked August 27, immediately informed a supervisor upon learning that a family member may have been exposed to the virus. Following HOPE Services protocol the employee has been in isolation since August 30th.  The employee had a positive test Thursday afternoon.

Staff, vendors, and shelter residents who may have come into close contact with the employee have been notified. Kihei Pua staff and residents were tested last week and received negative results. A second round of targeted testing was performed Thursday at Kihei Pua as well as at five additional shelters in Hilo and Pahoa including Hale Maluhia, Keolahou, Hale Hanakahi, Ohea House, and Sacred Heart Shelter. In total, ninety-eight shelter guests and staff were tested Thursday.

These steps come in addition to earlier precautionary measures including regular communication memos with staff and residents enumerating CDC guidance and agency policy updates; regular mass testing of shelter residents, unsheltered individuals, and staff; restrictions on visitors and volunteers entering shelters; telework being made available whenever possible; increasing temporary shelter capacity by 93 beds at 4 new sites; the suspension of new shelter guests at 8 shelters as of August 30 due to increased community spread; and the reopening of the Hale Hanakahi micro-shelters at the NAS Pool in Hilo September 2 to welcome new shelter guests.

“I am grateful to my team for their kuleana over the last several months, which I credit for flattening the curve within the HOPE Services ohana for so long,” said CEO Brandee Menino. “As we pray for our colleague’s recovery, I ask that we remember this is a time to show compassion, as well as continued vigilance.”

HOPE Services is considering “worst case” scenario options should there be a surge of COVID-19 in the houseless community, including converting an existing shelter into an isolation facility, and to look for hotel rooms or vacation rentals for frontline staff who might be exposed.

Photo is Kilei Pua Shelter in Hilo, courtesy HOPE Services