COVID-19 case tied to Hilo dialysis center confirmed; Waimea courthouse employee also tests positive

A case of COVID-19 associated with Liberty Dialysis in Hilo was confirmed, although officials on Tuesday would not say whether the case was in a patient or staff member.

A clinic administrator declined to comment when reached Tuesday morning; however, a company spokesman later provided a comment to the Tribune-Herald.

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“We have been actively screening patients and employees for COVID-19 since February and implemented strict infection control procedures and use of protective equipment which have met or exceeded federal guidelines,” said Brad Puffer, a spokesman for Fresenius Kidney Care and Liberty Dialysis, in an emailed statement to the Tribune-Herald. “Though we are unable to disclose information about specific individuals or centers, we can confirm that patients who present symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 will be receiving treatment in separate clinics or shifts to help protect our patients, employees and physician partners. Patient safety and delivering superior care remains at the forefront of everything we do.”

Puffer said the company does not expect a disruption in care for patients.

Additional information about the case or specific steps the clinic is taking to address the exposure was not immediately available Tuesday. According to information on the Fresenius website, their clinics are “intensively disinfected” on a daily basis, and visitors are not currently permitted.

When asked about a possible case at the dialysis center, the state Department of Health said it cannot comment about individual cases and does not disclose locations for individual cases.

The state Judiciary also confirmed Tuesday that a South Kohala District Court employee tested positive for the virus.

The worker at the Waimea courthouse is the only confirmed case of any Judiciary employee statewide, the Judiciary said in a statement.

The individual was asymptomatic, but took a COVID-19 test Saturday as a precautionary measure, unrelated to the person’s work for the Judiciary. The test came back positive Monday afternoon and the employee immediately went home to self-isolate.

All employees at the facility were directed to go home, self-quarantine and advised to monitor their health and seek advice of a medical provider, including the possibility of their own COVID-19 test.

The DOH is in the process of contact tracing.

The courthouse was closed Tuesday and arrangements were being made for the facility to be cleaned and sanitized. It is scheduled to reopen Friday.

As a result of the closure, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald issued an order extending the filing deadline to Aug. 10 for documents that were due Aug. 5-7 in South Kohala District Court.

In addition, all hearings or trials canceled because of the closure will be rescheduled to the next available date with due consideration for any statutory mandates.

For more information or assistance, call the Keahuolu Courthouse in Kona at 322-8700 or Hale Kaulike Courthouse in Hilo at 961-7470.

The Judiciary has been limiting access to its facilities to those with official court business only. Face coverings are required, social distancing measures are in place and increased cleaning of high traffic areas in the courthouse are performed daily.

These cases come as the DOH continues to report triple digit case counts.

On Tuesday, 144 new COVID-19 cases were reported, including five on the Big Island. The remaining 139 cases were reported on Oahu.

A majority of new COVID-19 cases continue to be associated with community spread, the DOH said.

Clusters currently under investigation include six cases linked to a hot yoga class, 71 linked to a series of funeral events and 12 cases associated with a birthday party.

Tuesday’s case count brings the statewide tally to 2,591, including 122 on Hawaii Island.

The state on Tuesday also reported its 27th coronavirus-related death.

The Honolulu man was between 40 and 59 with underlying medical conditions. An investigation into his death continues.

“We all extend our condolences to the family and friends of this man,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson. “Every death reminds us how very serious this disease is. Coronavirus can strike down anyone of any age. We can all protect each other and prevent more hospitalizations and deaths.”

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Reporter John Burnett contributed to this story.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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