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Positive coronavirus cases in Hawaii triple over the weekend

  • Video by Dennis Oda / doda@staradvertiser.com

    A couple, who traveled to Maui and Kauai, were confirmed as Hawaii's third and fourth coronavirus cases, state officials announced Saturday.

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Gov. David Ige, right, spoke at Saturday’s news conference while Rep. James Tokioka, center, and Sen. Ron Kouchi, left, looked on. The total of presumptive positive cases in Hawaii is six as of Saturday night.

    DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Gov. David Ige, right, spoke at Saturday’s news conference while Rep. James Tokioka, center, and Sen. Ron Kouchi, left, looked on. The total of presumptive positive cases in Hawaii is six as of Saturday night.

State officials were working Saturday to find all possible contacts with an Indiana couple who tested positive for the new coronavirus after they traveled to Maui and Kauai, while the number of cases for the virus in Hawaii tripled this weekend to six.

Gov. David Ige said at a news conference Saturday that the couple, a man and a woman, did not need to be hospitalized and were recovering at an isolated facility provided by Kauai County.

They were the third and fourth cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii. The first four cases have been related to travel and contact with someone infected by the virus outside of the state.

At about 7 p.m. Saturday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office issued a statement saying a fifth person had tested positive for coronavirus in the islands. That person was under investigation on Oahu when the positive results came back Saturday evening. Later Saturday, Maui County said test results for a woman under investigation on Maui came back positive. The woman was in isolation and being monitored by the Health Department.

Ige was scheduled hold a press conference at 1 p.m. today to share more information about the contagion.

Ige said the Indiana couple had traveled on a direct flight from the main­- land to Maui via United Airlines on March 2. He did not say where on the mainland the couple started their journey.

He gave the following account of the couple’s time in Hawaii:

>> The couple stayed at a hotel in Lahaina from March 2 to March 8 and shortly afterward, one person in the couple, “patient A,” developed a fever and a cough and had shortness of breath.

>> On March 4, the patient was tested for the flu at an urgent care facility, but the test was negative. The same day, the other person, “patient B,” began feeling ill. On March 7, “patient B” was seen at an urgent care facility on Maui.

>> On March 8, the couple flew on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 149 from Maui to Kauai, where they stayed at the Kauai Marriott Resort until health officials moved them to an isolation facility on the island.

Ige said “patient A” went to an urgent care clinic on Kauai on Monday and was given antibiotics, then went to Wilcox Medical Center on Thursday after continuing to feel ill. At Wilcox, the couple notified health-care providers that they had been in close contact with someone on the mainland who was confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The couple gave test samples on Thursday and a positive result for COVID-19 came back late Friday.

Bruce Anderson, director of the state Health Department, said the couple received a call notifying them they had been in contact with a confirmed case for the virus the same day they went to Wilcox.

Ige said three health care workers who treated the couple — one on Kauai and two on Maui — will be in self-isolation because they were not wearing the proper protective equipment for dealing with the virus. He did not say why the workers were not wearing the proper equipment, but the scarcity of masks on store shelves did not appear to be the reason.

Ige said emergency stockpiles of equipment at the national level are being made available to health care workers, and he was unaware of any facility in the state not being able to provide protective equipment to employees.

Ige said state workers were trying to obtain a detailed inventory of the couple’s travels, from tours to restaurants, to get an idea of possible points of contact for the virus to spread. He said the state will notify those who may have come into prolonged contact with the couple to isolate themselves for 14 days, take their temperature twice a day if they develop symptoms, and self-monitor for the illness.

Ige said the state is committed to have expanded testing on each island. On Oahu, The Queen’s Medical Center set up tents where individuals who meet the criteria can get tested for coronavirus. Urgent Care Hawaii on Oahu is also offering curbside testing, but patients must meet the guidelines first.

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii, a nonprofit representing health care facilities across the state, said any hospital in Hawaii can screen for coronavirus, as long as the patient meets the criteria, and can then send the samples to a lab for testing. He said the screening clinics help to keep possibly infected people away from others in the emergency room, but they are not necessary to test for coronavirus.

He said health officials are currently working to set up a team screening clinic on Maui, and officials can set up one on Hawaii island if needed.

On Kauai, meanwhile, Wilcox Medical Center will be offering special hours for its COVID-19 drive-up specimen collection program from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the rear entrance. Wilcox, along with Hawaii Pacific Health’s three Oahu medical centers — Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Pali Momi Medical Center and Straub Medical Center –— began offering drive-up specimen collections on Friday. Regular hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. from 5 p.m.

The first confirmed COVID-19 patient in the state was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship that traveled from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11 to 21.

He flew home to Honolulu, where he became ill and later tested positive. He was recovering at home.

The second patient, an Oahu man in his 90s, fell ill March 2 while traveling in Washington state and flew home on March 4. He was hospitalized in critical condition at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center. He was still severely ill, a Health Department official said Saturday.

Meanwhile, the state has completed its first batch of a community testing program to detect community spread of the coronavirus and the test results were negative. Sixty-two random samples from across the state were gathered from people who were taking flu tests, then tested for the coronavirus.

Ige said the state will try to ramp up the statewide random sampling to about 200 samples a week. He said the sampling was done with approval from the federal government.

Anderson, of the Health Department, said the random samples do not include about 30 to 40 people who were tested in Hawaii after meeting federal guidelines for testing and also came up negative.

“We have not seen any signs so far of community spread,” he said. “We can’t say there isn’t any, but at least these results are helpful to us. This is the time that we really need to take preventative measures.”

Rep. James Tokioka (D, Wailua Homesteads-Omao) said at the news conference that officials are trying to do what they can to protect the people of Kauai by shutting down county services.

“We want to support the restaurants and our businesses, but we want to make sure everybody is healthy,” he said. “So please, when people are sick on Kauai or anywhere else in the state, stay home. Stay home. That’s the best way we can stop this pandemic.”

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