Nearly three dozen people in Hawaii continue to stay indoors and avoid human contact as state health officials continue to trace the tracks of a Japanese couple who traveled to Maui and Oahu and later came down with the coronavirus now called COVID-19.
People self-monitoring for symptoms are doing so as a precaution after traveling to China. One man who visited Hubei Province where the outbreak has centralized has been staying in dormitory-like quarters for nearly two weeks under mandatory quarantine at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. If he shows no signs of illness, he’ll be released this weekend.
To date, no one in Hawaii has met the symptomatic or travel criteria to be tested for the coronavirus by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there have been no confirmed cases in the islands.
A number of those told to stay home have already completed the 14-day self quarantine and have returned to their lives, Hawaii Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said Thursday. Earlier this week there were more than 50 people in self-quarantine but by Thursday there were 35.
“That number is going down because people are not developing symptoms and completed the 14-day cycle,” Okubo said. “If the department does identify a person who meets the criteria as a suspect case, we’d take a sample and ship it to the (CDC).”
The Hawaii Judiciary said Thursday that those in self-monitoring situations may call their courts to postpone or change any upcoming court appearances, whether it is for a personal case or jury duty.
“We realize that people with required court dates, jury duty summons, or other time-sensitive court business may be concerned about not meeting required deadlines because of the obligation imposed by self-monitoring,” Rodney Maile, administrative director of the courts, said in a press release. “Additionally, we want to be able to provide a safe and healthy environment for all court users and staff.”
Nationally, only 15 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in seven states. More than 400 people have been tested, and another 50 or so are pending investigation. All cases were among people who had traveled to Hubei Province or had a personal relation to someone who had.
In its investigation, DOH has not found anyone who came into close or prolonged contact with the Japanese couple who stayed at Kaanapali Beach Club on Maui between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 and at the Grand Waikikian time share on Oahu until returning home to Japan on Feb. 7.
Maui News reported Tuesday that the Kaanapali Beach Club manager told employees in a letter that the hotel planned to undertake an “enhanced” cleaning of the entire resort.
“We have no reason at this time to believe there was any spread of infection at Kaanapali as the guests displayed no symptoms during their stay … and only became ill after leaving the resort,” Kaanapali General Manager Fred Mayo wrote to employees. “Public health officials have shared that they do not believe coronavirus can be transmitted unless an individual is already demonstrating symptoms.”
The man, who is in his 60s, remains hospitalized in Japan but his wife has recovered.
Hawaii authorities hope the state may become a hub for coronavirus diagnostic beta testing by mid-March, according to Okubo. Earlier this month, the CDC distributed faulty testing kits and is now manufacturing a new batch to distribute to several states.
When the CDC sends a new batch of beta testing kits, the agency will send samples to test along with them, Okubo said.
“We’d not be testing our own samples, but the ones they send us,” she said. If accuracy is proven, the state would be able to diagnose COVID-19 in-state, rather than send samples to CDC headquarters in Atlanta.
Another four Hawaii residents tested negative for COVID-19 and have returned home from Cambodia after their Westerdam cruise ship trip was canceled by Holland America.
China has experienced the worst of the outbreak, with nearly 75,000 cases of the coronavirus confirmed, and more than 2,100 deaths. Japan has had the second highest number of confirmed cases with 702 infected and three deaths, although 621 of those infected were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in its shores. Two people in Hong Kong and another one in Taiwan have died. This week, the first death occurring outside of Asia was in France, where just 12 cases have been confirmed.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.