Colorado Woman With COVID-19 Tests Positive 19 Days After Lengthy Hawai‘i Trip
A 50-year-old Colorado woman who was in Hawaiʻi for a two week trip in February, says she has since tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It is important to note that it is unclear where the woman contracted the virus and there are others in her area of Colorado that have tested positive–none of them to date are personal contacts of hers, to her knowledge.
The CDC says symptoms of COVID-19 including fever, cough and shortness of breath may appear 2-14 days after exposure. This particular test was taken 19 days after leaving the islands, but symptoms were present in the weeks before being tested. With those factors in mind, this interview provides some background information of the woman’s trip given her lengthy stay in the islands and timing of her diagnosis.
*Below this full-length video interview is a recap of symptoms and a timeline of travel.
Lisa Merck traveled in the islands from Feb. 2 to 18 and was on Maui, Oʻahu and the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. (Specific travel dates are provided at the end of this post). Her six-day Maui visit between Feb. 13 and 18, was the final leg of her trip before returning home to Denver.
On Feb. 18, the day she was to fly back, she started having a “tiny, tiny runny nose,” and started “sneezing just a little bit. Got on the plane and my neck started hurting me on the left side and then my muscles started aching,” she said in a personal video.
Looking back she thinks this could have been the beginning of her illness, however she did not test positive until nearly three weeks later.
Merck said that after getting back to Colorado over the next week or two she started having muscle aches, she was nauseous and said she felt like somebody was “stabbing” her in her muscles “with an ice pick.”
Merck is a health care provider and says she got tested for Influenza A and B, but those tests came back negative. Her highest fever was 100.8.
On March 2, she called CDC and Public Health and says she was informed that she didn’t meet criteria for COVID-19 testing.
On March 8, she went to the ER and they did an additional Influenza A and B test (it was negative) followed by a chest x-ray and blood work. Her blood work showed low white blood cells and doctors told her she had a viral pneumonia.
Also on March 8, Merck was tested for COVID-19, and the test results came back on March 11, confirming that she was positive.
She and her husband have been in isolation at home ever since. She says the CDC did not ask which flight she was on.
A few details surrounding her itinerary are posted below. “Unfortunately, I cannot possibly recall my daily encounters of a three week trip and notify each person I crossed paths with. I wish I could. I’ve notified the CDC and public health of my time in places I can remember and have done my due diligence to notify all persons I can think of.”
- Feb. 3: Traveled from Denver, Colorado to Honolulu at 10 a.m. on United Airlines (Arrived in islands to HNL; Stayed at Alohilani Resort in the Waikīkī area to Feb. 5; Feb. 5-9, Stayed at Turtle Bay
and attended a medical symposium held at the hotel)
- Feb. 9: Departed Honolulu for Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island at 5 p.m. aboard Hawaiian Airlines (Feb. 9-12 Stayed at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel and visited Volcanoes National Park; Feb. 12-13 VRBO in Kona)
- Feb. 13: Departed Hilo for Maui at 11:50 a.m. on Hawaiian Airlines (Stayed at the Lahaina Inn; went whale watching on boat off Kāʻanapali Beach, poolside at Royal Lahaina Resort, and went to restaurants and shops in Kāʻanapali.)
- Feb. 18: Traveled from Maui to Honolulu at around 8 p.m.; and then boarded a United Airlines flight from Honolulu to Denver at 10 p.m.
To date, Hawaiʻi has four confirmed presumptive positive COVID-19 cases: (1) The first presumptive positive case was announced March 6. That individual was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise in Mexico from Feb. 11-21. (2) On March 8, DOH tested a second presumptive positive test result for an elderly adult who is hospitalized in serious condition on O‘ahu. The individual felt ill on March 2 in Washington State and traveled home to Honolulu on March 4. (3 and 4) Two visitors to the island of Kauaʻi tested positive for the coronavirus or COVID-19 on March 13, becoming the third and fourth presumptive positive tests in Hawaiʻi. Those individuals had become symptomatic while visiting Maui where they had sought urgent care.