If someone in Hawaii is identified to have the novel 2019 coronavirus, they will be quarantined for two weeks at the U.S. Pearl Harbor military base, Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson announced Monday.
“Their base is preferred and used in these situations because they have a secured facility, limited public access, and staff support capacity to provide meals that those individuals will need for the 14 days they are here,” Anderson said.
“That’s a huge relief for all of us and I want to thank the military. I’ll sleep well tonight to know we have a place for someone to go if and when we may need it here.”
The likelihood remains low, since many Chinese cities are on lockdown and most air travel between China and the U.S. is temporarily on hold.
Any suspected cases in Hawaii will likely be captured by a federal screening process that was outlined by the White House Task Force on Coronavirus last week: All U.S. citizens who have traveled to Hubei Province in China during the past two weeks will be subject to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, and those who have traveled elsewhere in China will be monitored and asked to self-quarantine.
At a legislative briefing held Monday afternoon, Hawaii State Epidemiologist Sarah Park reiterated to lawmakers that any remaining passengers to be routed to Hawaii will undergo vetting by federal health officials.
“The identification of these individuals is done first by our federal partners. Right now there are zero,” Park said. “We are not aware of anyone from the hot zone filling the criteria for mandatory quarantine.”
The specific criteria for identifying potential cases include symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. The federal authorities — including Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — began last week to query all passengers from China about their symptoms.
“I’m confident that if we do have a case, it’s going to be identified very early,” Anderson said.
Many air carriers had already temporarily suspended operations between the two countries prior to the federal action.
White House officials said last week that all future flights from China will be directed through specific U.S. airports, including Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.
The number of airports was revised over the weekend from seven to 11 airports, according to Tim Sakahara, the public information officer for the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
Passengers rerouted to any of the eleven airports would be American citizens, legal permanent residents or their immediate family members, and likely to receive public health evaluation and quarantine, if necessary, at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Honolulu quarantine station.
“While there are no scheduled flights from mainland China to Hawaii, it’s still to be determined if any of the funneled flights or passengers will be making their way to Honolulu,” he said. “We haven’t received any word yet.”
China Eastern Airlines, which operated the only direct flight between China and Honolulu, temporarily suspended its flights to the U.S. in accordance with the federal mandate.
“Yesterday was the last scheduled flight,” said Sakahara. “Moving forward now there are no scheduled flights from mainland China to Hawaii.”
In a memo to passengers, China Eastern Airlines said ticket holders are eligible for rescheduling and refunds.
The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has affected more than 17,000 people and taken the lives of more than 300 in China. The China death toll has surpassed that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003.
The World Health Organization last week declared the outbreak a public health emergency of national concern.
In collaboration with the CDC Honolulu airport Customs and Border Patrol agents began last week to screen passengers from China by distributing health travel notices and redirecting symptomatic travelers to the U.S. CDC quarantine station in Honolulu.
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