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Hawaii News

Hawaii’s first community-spread coronavirus case confirmed; 25 family members and contacts tested

The number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii is climbing with 10 people now having tested positive, including a Kualoa Ranch tour guide with no recent travel history and a Kapiolani hospital staffer.

State health officials announced Monday three new COVID-19 cases: two Oahu residents and a visitor on Maui. The Department of Health is monitoring the individuals in isolation, as well as their family members, who are in self-quarantine.

“Though we are seeing an increased number of cases in Hawaii, we still have no evidence of widespread community transmission (infections not linked to recent travel),” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “We still need to be vigilant in protecting the community. We’re going to be taking strong measures to prevent transmission in the community.”

A health care worker at Kapiolani Medical Center for Woman &Children is among the three newly confirmed cases. The Oahu resident recently traveled with a partner to Las Vegas. Nevada has 45 confirmed cases and one death. Hawaii officials are still investigating dates of travel and onset of symptoms, while Kapiolani Medical Center is notifying patients and staff who came into contact with the worker.

A visitor on Maui — who arrived from the mainland March 7, developed symptoms March 9 and visited an urgent care center Wednesday — is also infected. The individual is traveling with a partner who has no symptoms. Both went sightseeing until they were notified about the positive test result Sunday and started isolating themselves in a hotel room, the Department of Health said.

In addition, an infected tour guide at Kualoa Ranch developed symptoms March 9, was seen at an urgent care clinic Wednesday and then again Thursday after her symptoms worsened. The young woman lives with a large extended family — all of whom are in home quarantine. Three other household members who have reported symptoms are awaiting test results.

This is the first reported case in Hawaii of a person contracting the illness in the islands, not while overseas.

This case was “clearly very likely exposed in the nature of their work. Kualoa provides services to hundreds of people a day,” Anderson said. “It’s very likely they also may have contaminated or exposed other family members.”

Dr. Scott Miscovich said that the young woman came into his Windward Urgent Care clinic, a regional COVID-19 screening and treatment center, on Wednesday and received the positive result Sunday night.

“We remained opened until almost 11 o’clock last night screening all of her immediate family and contacts,” he said. “At this stage the key to preventing broad-spread COVID-19 transmission is to begin much more aggressive testing, which the private medical sector throughout the state has taken up the responsibility to do.”

By Monday morning 25 members of her family and contacts had been screened, he said.

In a letter to more than 300 employees, John Morgan, president and CEO of Kualoa Ranch Hawaii, said the popular tourist attraction will be shut down for one week “while we assess the situation and consult with the medical professionals.”

The ranch was already closed for repairs because of a flash flood on Sunday that resulted in the cancellation of all afternoon tours.

“We know this is going to cause hardship to many people, and have decided to provide full compensation during this period to all employees who are scheduled to work but cannot due to the visitor operations shutdown,” he said. “We are offering and encouraging all employees to get tested for COVID-19.”

Miscovich said he is working with Kualoa to test its employees and will go to the ranch today to do broad screening and provide instructions on symptoms and urge employees to stay calm.

Tests results are pending for another seven people in Hawaii. Nine others on Oahu who were exposed are in self- isolation under DOH supervision. The Health Department said 86 people have tested negative for the coronavirus. In a separate surveillance program of 62 random negative flu samples to determine community spread, health officials have not found any positive cases of COVID-19.

Hawaii’s first coronavirus case, a woman who traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship in February and tested positive upon her return to Oahu, said she is fully recovered and has been cleared by public health authorities and Kaiser Permanente. The part-time Waikiki resident, who asked not to be identified, was on the voyage from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11 to 21.

“I am completely, 100% recovered, and I’m out of the quarantine right now,” she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, adding that her symptoms were mild. “I’m healthy right now and I’m fine.”

So far there is only one critical case: a male senior who recently returned from Washington state, where many U.S. coronavirus deaths have occurred. He is at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center.

Most of the confirmed patients in Hawaii have recently traveled to areas of outbreak, but state officials have warned that more cases of people contracting the virus without leaving the state are likely. The DOH expects to receive hundreds of tests over the next week from private laboratories.

“Most people who have tested positive in Hawaii were exposed outside of the state. However, we are starting to see the edge of community spread of the COVID-19 virus here in the islands,” Gov. David Ige said Monday at a news conference. “We are taking unprecedented actions to protect the vulnerable in our community and ensure that medical resources are available to those who most need them.”

As of Monday morning there were 3,487 confirmed cases detected in 49 of 50 states and four other U.S. jurisdictions — an increase of 1,858 cases over a three days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The number of cases that will be testing positive will rise significantly. The private health community has now come together and is prepared to handle this,” Miscovich said. “Just be vigilant. Protect our kupuna. Follow the guidelines that are being discussed across the world of social distancing … and try to avoid large groups of individuals together.”

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