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Social distancing is crucial, Ige says

  • Video by Diane S. W. Lee / dlee@staradvertiser.com

    Coronavirus cases in Hawaii grew to seven on Sunday. Hawaii Gov. David Ige urged the public to practice "social distancing," while Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell encouraged public and private sector workers to work remotely from their homes.

State officials emphasized again Sunday that “social distancing” will be key in helping to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Hawaii.

Gov. David Ige said that all seven cases of the new coronavirus in Hawaii are travel-related, with those infected having come into prolonged contact with an infected person outside of the state.

“We don’t — at least at this point in time — have evidence of community spread, but we know that it will occur,” he said. “What can we do to mitigate that? … Social distancing is our effort to flatten the curve.”

Ige was referring to the steep bell curve for the number of people who are projected to get infected by the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19.

In response to questions about banning travel to Hawaii, Ige said he doesn’t have the authority to ban travel to the islands, which falls under the federal government. He added it would be ineffective for the state to screen tens of thousands of passengers who come into the state’s airports every day.

Instead, he said, the community should work as a team, such as practicing good hygiene, to keep others from getting sick, and encouraged the public to cancel nonessential travel.

“It really is about everyone in our community being responsible, travelers included,” he said. “If you are ill, you should stay put at home.”

Bruce Anderson, state Health Department director, said officials in other parts of the country found that trying to isolate their communities was largely ineffective in the long run and only postponed the introduction of the disease.

“The real answer to addressing the spread of the disease is social distancing,” Anderson said. “It’s going to get here sooner or later. We can screen people and postpone it coming here, but it’s going to end up here in Hawaii, undoubtedly.”

He said maintaining a distance from sick people is “really what’s made the big difference,” adding that now is the time to take action, before the virus begins spreading locally.

“You want to put the preventative measures in place before the disease is introduced,” he said.

He said two of the positive cases announced Sunday were Hawaii residents, indicating that closing state borders to visitors would not prevent the virus from reaching the islands.

Meanwhile, state officials said the growing use of private testing labs in Hawaii will help officials gain a better picture of the coronavirus’ presence in the community.

Clinical Labs of Hawaii conducted about 80 tests that were handed over Saturday to the Health Department. All were negative, except for the three most recent positive tests.

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