Still No COVID-19 Cases in Hawai‘i; Travel Advisories Issued for Japan & Hong Kong

February 21, 2020, 4:19 PM HST · Updated February 21, 4:19 PM
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There’s still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or coronavirus in Hawaiʻi, according to a daily update issued by the State’s newly activated Joint Information Center, established in support of media operations regarding the virus.

Of the 56 individuals who are self-monitoring in Hawaiʻi, 51 are on Oʻahu, four are on Big Island and one is on Maui.  Self-monitoring is for individuals who were identified through airport screening because of their recent travel to China.  This group of individuals voluntarily remain at home and refrain from work, school, gathering places and public transit; and communicate daily with staff at the Department of Health.

On Feb. 20, the CDC announced travel advisories to Watch Level 1 for Japan and Hong Kong. Travelers are advised to practice usual precautions. For more info, visit: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.  Also on Feb. 20, the State Department updated their travel guidance and recommended US citizens reconsider travel by cruise ship to or within East Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region.

The DOH continues to actively gather facts and interview individuals about a husband and wife who travelled together from Japan to Hawaiʻi (Jan. 28-Feb.6) and after returning home to Japan, tested positive for COVID-19.

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Health officials were notified by the Japan Ministry of Health that the husband remains hospitalized and the wife has recovered. The airlines and lodging facilities where they stayed on Oʻahu and Maui are reaching out to employees, staff and guests to keep them informed. DOH immediately began to identify possible close contacts and determine health risk.

To date, no individuals with prolonged close contact have been identified in Hawaiʻi. Casual contacts who are not at risk have been interviewed and are not in need of monitoring based on current federal guidelines. All persons identified are either low or no risk under these guidelines, and no one is required to be monitored under public health supervision related to this situation.

Feb. 20, 2020 marked the end date of the infectious period for any individual who could have been infected by exposure to the infected visitor who was in the islands.  It would have been the last day that an infected individual would be expected to show symptoms.

As for American passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, they have been flown to bases in California and Texas for quarantine for 14 days. These actions are under federal authority and, at this time, the Department of Health does not have information on the passengers who are Hawaiʻi residents.

The Department of Health was notified of at least four Hawaiʻi residents who were passengers on the Westerdam cruise ship (Holland America) and have returned home. DOH is in contact with these individuals and was advised that the cruise passengers are not at risk and do not pose a risk to others.

Currently, all laboratory testing to confirm COVID-19 is being conducted at the CDC laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia. The test kits sent to state laboratories, including Hawaiʻi, had an issue with negative control primer probe sets included in each kit.

New test kits are being developed by the CDC. It is estimated that Hawaiʻi may receive test kits in early to mid-March. DOH has offered to be a beta-tester for the new kits to ensure they work properly. If Hawaiʻi becomes a beta-tested, it means the state may have earlier access to the testing process.

Per CDC guidelines, testing is only conducted on individuals who meet the criteria as a Person of Interest, who exhibit symptoms of respiratory illness (cough or shortness of breath) and have traveled to China within the past 14 days.

To date, there have been no samples sent to CDC from Hawaiʻi since no individuals meet the CDC criteria.

Everyone can help prevent the spread of respiratory illness with these everyday actions.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household
    cleaning spray or wipe.

    Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical extracellular viral particles contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots. PC: C.S. Goldsmith and A. Tamin. Provided by: CDC/ C.S. Goldsmith and A. Tamin

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