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Hawaii Capitol’s Public Access Room closes due to connection to Hawaii’s second confirmed coronavirus case

  • BRUCE ASATO / 2013
                                A room in the Hawaii State Capitol in downtown Honolulu has been shut down due to coronavirus concerns.

    BRUCE ASATO / 2013

    A room in the Hawaii State Capitol in downtown Honolulu has been shut down due to coronavirus concerns.

  • NIAID-RML VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                The Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, seen in an undated image. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

    NIAID-RML VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, seen in an undated image. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

UPDATE: Thursday

The roommate of an employee in the State Capitol’s Public Access Room had contact with Hawaii’s second confirmed COVID-19 patient, an elderly man who flew back to Hawaii from Seattle and was later confirmed to have the coronavirus, health officials confirmed.

The connection to the virus caused lawmakers to close the fourth-floor room “out of an abundance of caution” until March 18.

Staff members at the Capitol had previously told the Star-Advertiser that the roommate, a ride-share driver, had transported a Canadian doctor to the airport. On Thursday, Canadian health officials confirmed that doctor tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from a trip to Hawaii.

But state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park informed legislative officials late Wednesday that the Lyft driver drove the resident who traveled from Seattle and was the second positive case in Hawaii. She said the driver has been contacted by the Health Department.

“Our Disease Investigation staff advised the Lyft driver to self-monitor at home for 14 days,” according to the message from the Health Department to legislative leaders. “The Lyft driver does not have symptoms. A legislative staffer is a roommate of the Lyft driver. The DOH does not believe there is a risk from the staffer. Both individuals are not connected with the Canadian citizen who became ill after returning home from Hawaii and subsequently was confirmed with COVID-19.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Wednesday 4:15 p.m.

The Public Access Room on the fourth floor of the Hawaii State Capitol has been closed “out of an abundance of caution” until March 18 after a roommate of an employee in the office reportedly had contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.

The roommate is a ride-share driver who was informed by the state Department of Health on Tuesday that a passenger whom the roommate transported on March 4 later tested positive for COVID-19.

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“As a precautionary measure, DOH asked the roommate to self-quarantine for 14 days even though the roommate has been symptom free,” according to a news release distributed by the state Senate this afternoon.

Sources said the passenger later returned to Canada. Canadian media reported today that a Canadian doctor who recently visited Hawaii has tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday after returning home.

A call to the Capitol’s Public Access Room confirmed it has been closed, and a Capitol source said the staff there has been placed on leave.

“At no time have either the roommate or the employee of the Public Access Room exhibited any symptoms,” according to the Senate news release. “Therefore, based upon CDC guidelines and DOH current policies, they were not tested by the Hawaii Department of Health and are extremely unlikely to have been infected.”

None of the staff there nor the roommate have showed any symptoms, but the access room will be cleaned as a precaution, according to the news release.

“All essential functions of the Hawaii State Legislature will continue,” the senate statement said.

An oncologist in her 30s at the Juravinski Cancer Centre returned to Burlington, Ont., following a personal trip to Hawaii on Saturday and is in self-quarantine. She became the city’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

According to Canadian media, the doctor was working at the cancer center on March 9 with five health care workers and treated 14 patients, according to the Canadian hospital. Canadian health officials are working to identify anyone who was exposed to the virus.

A source at the Hawaii state Capitol said legislative leaders are checking to see which lawmakers or their staff members spent significant amounts of time in the access room, which is designed to assist members of the public who want to lobby for issues or follow the legislative process.

Hawaii lawmakers are midway through their annual 60-day session of the Legislature.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

A Canadian doctor who recently visited Hawaii has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Canadian media reports.

A 32-year-old female resident oncologist at the Hamilton Health Sciences Juravinski Cancer Centre returned to Burlington, Ont., following a trip to Hawaii and developed mild respiratory symptoms on Monday afternoon, according to the hospital. She became the city’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Tuesday and is in self isolation at home.

“This is a travel related case. She returned from a trip to Hawaii on Saturday and became symptomatic on Monday,” Dr. Hamidah Meghani, medical officer of health and commissioner for the Hamilton Region Health Department in Ontario, said at a news conference today. She added that Canadian health officials are “working closely to identify all known contacts who may have been potentially exposed to the virus and to assess if there is a potential health risk.”

The doctor, who was working at the center on Monday, treated 14 cancer patients and had contact with two physicians, five health care workers and a senior oncology resident, but was not sick on her return flight home, the news outlet said. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the virus had sickened more than 126,000 with the death toll rising to more than 4,600 globally.

However, Hawaii health officials say they don’t have any information on that individual, which means they cannot trace any close contacts while in the islands.

“We understand that people believe that when there are issues in other countries that might have been related to travel here that people want information. However … usually we defer to federal authorities to work with other countries,” said Janice Okubo, state Department of Health’s spokeswoman. “That’s a little outside of our range of jurisdiction. We don’t know if this individual was actually ill in Hawaii. We’re relying on our federal authorities (specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), to provide us with information on international issues.”

——

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.


This story has been updated to reflect that the room closure is connected to Hawaii’s second confirmed coronavirus case, and not the Canadian doctor who tested positive after returning home from a Hawaii trip.


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