The number of individuals in Hawaii under quarantine for the coronavirus jumped overnight to 36 — 35 under ‘self-quarantine’ and a man who is being isolated on the base at Pearl Harbor.
State health officials said Monday they were monitoring 27 individuals, but that the number would be fluctuating as more travelers are funneled to Honolulu, one of 11 airports designated by the federal government to receive all flights to the U.S. from China.
A “couple dozen” more travelers who were in China within the 14-day transmission period have likely already passed through the state and onto other mainland states, where they will be required to be in self-quarantine for 14 days, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is acting governor this week.
He did a Facetime interview with the Hawaii resident who visited Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, and is in mandatory quarantine at Pearl Harbor. The individual is still healthy, cooperative and “didn’t want to put anyone in their community or family at risk,” he said.
“They were there before the outbreak surged and before the quarantine was announced,” Green said, adding that the individual is a long-time Hawaii resident who previously lived in China. “It appears the person was there for several weeks — a mix of work and visiting people that they knew. It came as a surprise that there were going to be quarantines, but they had no desire to defy the quarantine.”
Green added that the resident requested some extra blankets and other amenities and asked for a “little bit of outside time” to be able to walk 10 or 15 meters around the quarantine facility over the next two weeks, “all of which would be away from people.”
“The person is going to have to be completely confined to the area,” he said. “They’re not going to allow contact with any other individuals.”
Although direct flights from China to Hawaii have been suspended, travelers who have been in China are coming to Hawaii via other countries. Those who have been to Hubei within the last two weeks or are considered high-risk are required to complete a 14-day quarantine at Pearl Harbor, the incubation period for the virus that has so far killed more than 1,000 and infected more than 42,000 in mainland China.
The other 35 people on Oahu who went elsewhere in China are in “self-quarantine” either at home or in hotel rooms, where they are being tracked via phone, texts or videoconferences several times a day. Health officials may also do spot checks to ensure they are staying away from the public.
The U.S. declared a public health emergency due to the outbreak, placing a temporary ban on foreign nationals who recently traveled to the country — other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Meanwhile, two asylum seekers from China trying to flee from the deadly virus, also known as COVID-19, were recently taken into custody at the airport by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One of the asylum seekers was taken to the hospital because of a heart condition that has since improved, Green said.
Health officials are expected to be able to test locally for the coronavirus by the weekend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has distributed test kits to the affected states to make screening faster.
“It’s been a very dynamic week. We believe we put togetherr the most comprehensive state response in the country. We stood up on my watch this week a very solid screening system which obviously worked,” Green said. “Every other state is in worst shape than us. There have been in many cases hundreds of individuals they’re having to monitor. Everyone is sensitive about any travelers from China right now so we’re being careful.”