Gov. David Ige and Hawaii Department of Health officials are holding a press conference to discuss new surveillance testing for coronavirus and the ongoing testing of individuals under investigation for the virus. Watch the video below for more.
Hawaii health officials will begin broad community testing this week to find out if the state has a more severe coronavirus problem than it thinks.
Following complaints by doctors and community concerns over the lack of widespread testing, the Department of Health announced a statewide surveillance program to identify any cases of the virus throughout the islands.
“It’s probably inevitable for the disease to come to Hawaii and get established in the community,” Gov. David Ige said at a news conference, adding that more than 30 states are now reporting clusters of the virus. “We do anticipate that will happen. What this surveillance testing allows us is what all of the other governors wish they had. It would’ve been helpful to know if the virus was present. We continue to hope that it’s not present, but we don’t want to close our eyes to the possibility that it is.”
The State Laboratories Division in Pearl City will randomly test 200 samples collected for influenza surveillance that come back negative for the flu and then notify those confirmed with COVID-19 to take steps to prevent spread. The division expects to receive up to 400 samples a week from doctor’s offices and clinics.
The governor said so far there is no evidence of community spread — cases that can’t be traced back to a traveler or someone who was exposed to a confirmed case.
Hawaii has two confirmed cases of the novel virus that has sickened more than 110,000 — including nearly 1,000 in the United States — and killed more than 4,200 worldwide. The first case involved an individual in home quarantine who was on the Grand Princess cruise from San Francisco to Mexico last month and an elderly man who recently returned from Washington state, where most U.S. coronavirus deaths have occurred. Of the 22 tests conducted, two is pending results, and two recently came back negative, officials said.
Additional testing to detect COVID-19 cases earlier will help the state better contain the virus, officials said, adding that they are considering “social distancing” measures, including canceling events, closing schools and urging businesses to have their employees work from home.
“This is a major new development in our state’s prevention and mitigation efforts,” state Health Director Bruce Anderson said. “We’ve been asking for this capability and working with the CDC for weeks to get this program in the field. It will help us focus our prevention and response efforts so that we can keep our communities safe and informed about how the virus is affecting our state.”
The state also expects testing for suspect cases to dramatically increase as private laboratories come online. Clinical Labs of Hawaii and Diagnostic Laboratory Services began offering coronavirus testing services today and is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain approval for local testing. Until FDA approval, the labs will send testing samples to a mainland laboratory for confirmation.