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As Hawaii embarks on a new randomized surveillance testing method to see if the novel coronavirus has been spreading under our noses, the virus continues to disrupt travel and public events in the islands and abroad.
On Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Education canceled all school and department travel outside of Hawaii until the end of the school year. Cultural events like the Kapu‘uola Hula Festival on Oahu that was scheduled for April 4 have been postponed. The Honolulu Marathon Association announced it was postponing the Hapalua half-marathon scheduled for April 5.
Other events will go on. Rim of the Pacific Exercise, or RIMPAC, will be conducted as planned this June and July, a spokesman told Civil Beat. The biennial international maritime warfare exercise is the largest of its kind.
Meanwhile, the two confirmed coronavirus case investigations in Hawaii are still unfolding, and four Hawaii residents are believed to still be quarantined on the Grand Princess cruise ship in California waters waiting to disembark.
Another coronavirus connection surfaced on Wednesday, when Canadian newspapers reported that an oncologist in her 30s was diagnosed with COVID-19 after a trip to Hawaii.
As part of our new questions and answers project, here are more answers Civil Beat found in response to your concerns.
Why aren’t we banning cruise ship arrivals?
According to Gov. David Ige, Hawaii state government does not have the authority to ban cruise ships. That decision lies with the federal government and the U.S. Coast Guard. All ships from China have been banned at this point, but other cruises have continued as planned, despite new warnings from federal authorities.
Yesterday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department discouraged Americans from traveling by cruise, especially if they’re elderly and have underlying health conditions.
“Like many other viruses, Covid-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” the CDC said in its most recent travel advisory update.
Earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Hawaii Rep. Gene Ward asked the federal government to temporarily cease all cruise ship travel to the United States, but no such action has been taken to date.
In a Tuesday letter to the governor, Ward expressed his concern about the matter:
“Please reconsider your position on this matter and push the pause button on these floating tubs of germs, one of which caused Hawaii’s first coronavirus case,” he wrote to Gov. Ige.
How is the virus spread and how long does the virus live in the air and on surfaces?
There is much still being researched, but COVID-19 is believed to spread via droplets, such as coughing or sneezing. Exposure is defined by health authorities as close, personal face-to-face contact within six feet for durations of 10 minutes or more. The virus can incubate in someone for anywhere from two to 14 days, so people, including children, can be infectious before they show symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Your risk of catching it largely depends on how much you touch your face, so experts recommend refraining from touching your face and washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It’s also possible to pick up the virus from contaminated surfaces, where it can live for hours or even days, although health officials say that route of transmission is less common.
A new study shows that the virus can be detected in the air as many as three hours later. On copper, it lasted four hours, and on cardboard, it lasted one day. Plastic and stainless steel held the virus for as many as two or three days.
The study was conducted by National Institutes of Health, Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, with funding from the U.S. government and the National Science Foundation.
Should we start distancing ourselves socially?
If you feel like it, sure. Hawaii State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said Tuesday that the public doesn’t necessarily need to wait for the government’s recommendation to implement “social distancing.” Gov. David Ige recommended that elderly people, who are at higher risk for succumbing to COVID-19, avoid large gatherings.
How are Hawaii hospitals preparing?
Past training for outbreaks such as Ebola have Hawaii hospitals equipped to deal with infectious diseases like the new coronavirus. Hospitals gathered backup emergency supplies and can tap into more provided by the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management coalition or use funds from the federal Hospital Preparedness Program, according to Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
The state has extra masks, gowns, goggles, respirators and other personal protective equipment in the event of an outbreak. The state has approximately 166 isolation rooms that could be used if necessary in the future, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.
Is Hawaii going to receive help from the federal government?
On Wednesday, the federal government approved $4.5 million in emergency funds for Hawaii for coronavirus-related crisis spending.
Where can I get the latest numbers on global COVID-19 infections and deaths?
This Johns Hopkins University tracker is a great resource. More than 119,000 people have been infected around the world as of Wednesday, prompting the World Health Organization to officially proclaim it a pandemic.
We also asked people what they’ve been doing differently since hearing about the virus. Here are a few things they’ve told us:
• “A non-profit I lead has decided to hold its next board meeting by internet video instead of in person. But that won’t work for official county board and commissions — Sunshine law won’t allow that.”
• “Trying not to hug, shake hands, or honi (nose to nose). It’s hard.”
• “Cancelling routine medical appointments, keeping an adequate supply of medications, wearing disposable gloves while out shopping or at the gym, and shopping at non-busy times.”
We have plenty more questions to answer so stay tuned for more posts like this as we work our way through them. Meanwhile, use the form below to ask us anything and tell us what, if anything, you’re doing differently to avoid getting sick.
It’s a critical time for our community as we all try to navigate unprecedented disruptions to our daily lives.
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