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Coronavirus likely to appear in Hawaii ‘sooner or later,’ state official says

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Airline travelers from Asia make their way from the international arrivals customs area at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Sunday.

    BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Airline travelers from Asia make their way from the international arrivals customs area at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport on Sunday.

The state has identified a quarantine site at a military base at Pearl Harbor for any travelers who have been to Hubei province within 14 days or are considered high risk, whether or not they show symptoms of the deadly coronavirus.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson, who testified before lawmakers Monday at an emergency briefing, said “it’s very likely we will see a case in Hawaii sooner or later” and that military bases are preferred quarantine sites because of the security, limited public access and support staff to help provide meals and other services during a mandatory 14-day quarantine ordered by the Trump administration, which declared a public health emergency.

The U.S. placed a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to China — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, and ordered an unprecedented 14-day quarantine of those who visited Hubei province within two weeks. Americans returning from other areas of China within two weeks will be required to self-quarantine under the travel restrictions. Honolulu is now one of 11 airports where all flights to the U.S. from China will be funneled, though direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended.

“The fact that China has closed its borders or at least we’ve shut them down isn’t a panacea to this problem. It’s a pandemic now. It’s occurring everywhere,” Anderson told lawmakers. “I can guarantee that it’s not going to go away just because we’ve stopped travel from here to China, back and forth. We need to continue to be vigilant about it. These international flights are going to continue to come to Hawaii from other places where they have the disease so we’re in this for the long haul.”

Hilton Raethal, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said “it’s just a matter of time” until the virus gets to Hawaii. The World Health Organization has declared a “global public health emergency of international concern.”

The death toll in mainland China rose to 425, with the total number of cases growing to 20,438 on Monday. That compares to two deaths and 45 cases on Jan. 17.

“The death rate of the flu in general is about one in a 1,000. The death rate of the novel coronavirus is significantly higher than that. It might be two to three people per hundred so it’s much more lethal so we’re scared of that in public,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said at the briefing. “But as long as we do a good job preventing the spread, we’ll be fine.”

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