Hawaii health officials have tested 31 random samples for the novel coronavirus that have all come back negative, as part of a statewide surveillance program to identify undetected cases and community spread in the islands.
The Department of Health began broad community testing this week to find out whether the state has a bigger coronavirus problem than it thinks, following complaints by doctors and community concerns over the lack of widespread testing. Testing was completed Friday on the first batch of negative flu samples.
“This is good news for Hawaii as positive results would have indicated community spread of the disease,” the DOH said in a news release. “While we cannot rule out community spread, the negative results are an encouraging benchmark.”
Health director Bruce Anderson said at a news conference that there is still no evidence of community spread — cases that can’t be traced back to a traveler or someone who was exposed to a confirmed case.
The State Laboratories Division in Pearl City will ramp up testing to 200 samples collected for influenza surveillance that come back negative for the flu and then notify those confirmed with COVID-19 to prevent community spread. The division expects to receive up to 400 samples a week from doctor’s offices and clinics.
Hawaii has two confirmed cases of the novel virus that has sickened more than 145,000 — including more than 2,000 in the United States — and killed more than 5,400 worldwide as of Friday. The first Hawaii 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.
In addition the the surveillance program, 54 of the most serious cases have been tested locally, including those from Tripler Army Medical Center. Test results are pending for least seven suspect cases, including two on Kauai. The DOH is also monitoring 27 people in self-quarantine.
Private hospitals and clinics are also screening patients with less severe symptoms who may have been missed.
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