Lanai public school moves to distance learning amid spike

HONOLULU (AP) — The only public school on Lanai moved to distance learning amid an outbreak of coronavirus cases on the Hawaii island.

The state Department of Education announced the immediate changeover for the 570 students enrolled at Lanai High and Elementary School, Hawaii News Now reported Thursday.

Education department officials said there were no confirmed infections linked to the kindergarten to grade 12 campus on the island with a population just under 3,000.

The school previously provided so-called blended learning, a mix of in-person and distance learning, to students in kindergarten through fifth grade and complete distance learning for secondary grades.

The decision was made amid growing concern about a COVID-19 outbreak on Lanai.

Officials at the island’s medical facilities said Thursday there were 20 cases, just a day after reporting the first positive tests in the community.

Heidi Taogoshi of the Maui District Health Office said all of those who tested positive are island residents who are isolating at home. None have been hospitalized.

Two Lanai residents were diagnosed with the virus while they were off the island.

State and county officials said the island’s healthcare system is not equipped to handle a surge in virus patients.

“Many of us are of the opinion that you don’t have a double-digit number of cases on Lanai, you have a triple-digit number of cases on Lanai," Maui Health Emergency Medicine Chairman Dr. Lee Weiss said.

As much as 10% of the island's population could test positive for the virus by next week, Weiss said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.