A remote community on Hawaii’s most ‘inaccessible’ island is the last coronavirus-free province in the United States – 155 years after the region was used to isolate patients with Hansen’s disease or leprosy.
Nestled on the island of Moloka’i, the 12 residents of the Kalaupapa settlement in Kalawao County, which has 75 residents, have so far escaped the ravages of the coronavirus.
The province has recorded a shocking zero cases and zero deaths throughout the pandemic – a commendable achievement as the US reports 12 million cases and 255,000 deaths.
ABC 7 said that by May, 231 of the country’s 3,143 counties had remained case-free since the first report in January.
Hawaii’s Kalawao Province (pictured) is the last US province with zero coronavirus cases and zero pandemic deaths
Pictured: Hawaii state officials assist visitors at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport Thursday, October 15, 2020 in Honolulu
But by October, that group had shrunk to just six counties that had no coronavirus cases, before dropping to just one.
The revelation comes after Hawaiian officials introduced new pandemic travel restrictions ahead of the holidays
According to the US National Park Service, in 1865, King Kamehameha V passed “a law to prevent the spread of leprosy,” which required residents suffering from the disease to isolate themselves.
Kalaupapa was’ chosen to isolate people with what was an incurable disease at the time. The peninsula was remote and quite inaccessible, ” NPS writes.
Hawaiian officials forced residents with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, to live in the Kalaupapa settlement in 1865 (photo)
To the south, the area was cut off from the rest of Molokai by a sheer pali or cliff nearly 2000 feet. The ocean surrounded the rest of the area to the east, north and west. Landing boats was only practical in good weather. ‘
The first group of nine men and three women was deposited at the settlement in January 1866, but the community would grow to about 8,000 patients.
The law was banned in 1969, and Hawaiian officials gave residents the option to leave the settlement. Now there are only a dozen of 8,000 patients left.
Dr. Glenn Wasserman, chief of communicable disease at the health department, told ABC 7 that despite the optimistic statistics, the area is considered “ medically underserved. ”
Wasserman admitted that Kalawao County has not conducted many coronavirus tests, but he ordered a few after some residents interacted with people outside the community.
All tests were negative, ABC 7 reports.
Wasserman explained that Kalaupapa’s patients are acutely vulnerable to the coronavirus. The average age of patients is 86 and many have a number of medical conditions.
Stiff guidelines were set, including bans on visitors and mandatory quarantines when staff or patients leave and return to the community.
“We felt that approach was much more reliable than testing everyone who came into the lab,” Wasserman told ABC 7.
He added that without consistent testing to confirm negative results, it is possible that someone has returned to the community, been quarantined, and never spread the infection.
Dr. Glenn Wasserman told ABC 7 that Kalawao County (pictured) is considered a medically underserved area by local health officials.
Baron Chan, head of the health department at Hansen’s health department, told ABC7 that the rules have put pressure on members of the community and patients.
Patients who traveled to Oaho before the pandemic to visit medical specialists have delayed treatment. Some staffers living outside of Kalaupapa decided to stay there, which means they haven’t seen their families in months.
Chan told ABC 7 that the current situation echoed that of more than a century ago.
“When they were sent to Kalaupapa, patients were taken from their families and friends and experienced loneliness,” Chan said.
“You see that all over the world now.”
Wasserman added, “Their sacrifice is part of Kalaupapa’s continuing legacy. We have achieved what we wanted to do and we must do it until the pandemic is over. ‘
A traveler is assisted by a state official at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Hawaii on Oct. 15 amid new restrictions
According to Hawaii’s coronavirus dashboard, the state has recorded 17,098 cases and 231 deaths so far.
Moloka’i Island, where Kalawao County is located, collected only 17 cases and zero deaths. Meanwhile, the island of Oahu has had 14,698 cases and has counted 180 deaths – a large portion of the total number.
Nationally, the seven-day positivity rate reached 9.8 percent and U.S. health officials said there were 160,000 new cases of coronavirus Thursday – the first time there were more than 150,000 infections since the pandemic began.
Hawaiian officials recently required travelers to submit a negative coronavirus test before flying to the islands, and have increased the requirements for face masks.
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