Seven people who came from China are in home quarantine after being flagged at the Honolulu airport.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is acting governor this week while Gov. David Ige attends the National Governors Association, said the individuals have no signs or symptoms of the deadly coronavirus, but are being monitored closely by the state Health Department.
“We haven’t had any highly symptomatic individuals we’re worried have the coronavirus. They just have a travel history that necessitates quarantine,” he said, adding that the individuals did not come from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak that has killed more than 700 in China and affected more than 34,500. “It’s highly likely they’re completely normal, clean and have no disease. Very low-risk people with no symptoms is my understanding, but you can’t be too careful in this case.”
State health officials are calling, texting or video conferencing the individuals a “couple times a day,” and are allowed to make spot checks if necessary, he said.
“If we have any concerns that someone that should be home monitoring … is out and about we have capacity to have the director of health (Bruce Anderson) order a formal quarantine and total protection,” Green said. “There will be individuals that over time will return to Hawaii. There are 200,000 American citizens living in China.”
Already about 1,000 Americans have been repatriated to the mainland, he said. The state has not had any coronavirus cases, nor has it had to quarantine anyone at a facility on the military base at Pearl Harbor. Any travelers who have been to Hubei province within two weeks or are considered high-risk are required to be quarantined in dorm rooms at Pearl Harbor for 14 days.
Meanwhile, two asylum seekers from China trying to flee from the deadly virus were taken into custody at the airport by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after trying to enter Hawaii.
Honolulu is 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 U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak in China, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to the country — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
The state expects to receive testing kits Saturday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin testing for the disease. All tests currently must be sent to the CDC in Atlanta, and the results are taking a few days.
“Some people say it’s only a matter of time when every state gets a couple cases, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Green said. “Right now there’s only 12 cases across the entire country and we are at zero. We have the capacity to minimize spread. Because we are in the Pacific and close to Asia we have to be mindful of No. 1 China and we’re watching very carefully what’s happening in other countries. We’re doing all we can to keep our number at zero.”