A California health care worker who arrived in Honolulu on Thursday has been confirmed by a Hawaii laboratory to have the common cold, not the new coronavirus, state officials announced Friday.

After more than a week’s delay caused by prior test kits that proved faulty, the Department of Health laboratory finalized its COVID-19 diagnostic testing capability on Friday and was able to test a sample from the California resident.

Officials said they were alerted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday night that the California woman had arrived in Honolulu and was suspected of having coronavirus. She had exhibited some symptoms and had cared for someone in a California hospital who was later confirmed to be infected by COVID-19.

Dr. Sarah Kemble, deputy state epidemiologist, said Hawaii now has the ability to test for the coronavirus at a state laboratory. Eleni Avendaño/Civil Beat/2020

Dr. Sarah Kemble, deputy state epidemiologist, said it turned out there were some mild symptoms so the department deployed a team to collect samples.

She said the department also provided guidance Thursday night about how to quarantine the woman in her Oahu hotel room. The quarantine ended when the test results came back negative for the coronavirus and positive for rhinovirus, the virus that causes colds and is not as severe as influenza.

Hawaii is experiencing a more severe flu season than normal, with rates of the flu in the islands surpassing national averages.

“We have a very dedicated staff that have been working around the clock because we knew this was a priority to speed up the testing capability,” said DOH Deputy Director of Health Resources Danette Wong Tomiyasu.

The department had anticipated the tests would not be implemented until next week, she said. The new test kits enable Hawaii doctors to diagnose COVID-19 in 24 to 48 hours.

The coronavirus, which originated in China, has been identified in 56 countries. More than 83,000 people have been infected and more than 2,800 have died, although the majority of cases have been mild and the infection is currently believed to have a 2% fatality rate.

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