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Hawaii Health Department recommends postponing large public events, urges caution during spring break

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The Health Department is calling for public events of more than 100 people to be postponed or canceled and is urging families to minimize their risk of infection with coronavirus as tens of thousands of children go on spring break.

Public school students will start a week’s vacation on Monday. There are no plans as yet to close schools beyond that spring break, Health Director Bruce Anderson said today.

Other districts that have shut schools are “typically in areas where you have a lot of transmission in the communities,” Anderson said, which is not the case here. Hawaii has just two confirmed cases of COVID-19, both acquired elsewhere.

“We are not at a point yet where we are recommending closure of schools,” Anderson said at a news conference. “Things are changing every day… I don’t foresee that in the near future that we’re going to be closing schools here.”

However, he said that the potential for person-to-person transmission “exponentially increases” during spring vacation when many families head out to crowded places or travel, and he advised caution.

“We know that traditionally spring break is a time when families go on trips or spend more time at the malls, theaters, restaurants, and other places where the public gathers,” Anderson said. “We are urging families to be circumspect and exercise extra precautions to minimize the risks of COVID-19 transmission.”

“While we do not want to limit family activities or recommend canceling their plans for spring break, we are urging families to take steps to minimize their risk of infection,” he added.

The health department advisory covers concerts and conferences as well as professional, college and school sporting events. It recommends smaller gatherings in smaller spaces that do not allow “social distancing” to be postponed or held virtually.

“When possible, attendees should be no fewer than two arms length or six feet apart,” the department said in an update.

People over 60 and those with compromised immune systems or health conditions are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Other advice from the department:

>>Avoid non-essential travel to high-risk destinations for COVID-19;

>>People who are sick should stay home except to get medical help;

>>Avoid contact with those who are sick and have flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath;

>>Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw it away;

>>Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom, before eating, or after blowing your now, coughing or sneezing;

>>Avoid touching high-contact public surfaces such as phones, doors, tables, keys, bags and lights;

>>Use alcohol based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol;

>>Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects routinely.

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