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Hawaii health director says some physicians ‘closing up their practices’

UPDATE

Hawaii Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson told the state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 today that a total of 5,747 coronavirus tests have been done in Hawaii so far, mostly by private laboratories.

Speaking after the department said today that the total number of cases rose by 14 to a total of 120, Anderson said, “A lot of the virus is being introduced (to Hawaii) now is a result of Hawaii residents returning home.”

Anderson noted this afternoon that 26 new test results that came back today were all negative.

“We don’t believe that (COVID-19) is circulating widely in our community,” he said.

While health officials do not believe there is widespread community transmission, there is at least localized spread on Oahu and Maui, where recent cases have had no travel history or exposure to travelers.

“We all anticipate a time when we’re gonna see much more community spread,” Anderson said. “It’s practically impossible to avoid.”

Meanwhile, officials are grappling with another issue: local doctors closing shop in the middle of the global pandemic.

Anderson said there have been “quite a few private physicians closing up their practices.”

“It has come to us anecdotally that people are calling doctors they’ve seen for years … only to find out they’ve stopped seeing patients,” he said, adding that residents who do not have a doctor anymore can contact a community health center. “Many of them are not used to dealing with infectious disease issues. Many aren’t used to wearing (personal protective equipment) or don’t have any supplies in stock. It puts an increased burden on other medical facilities, hospitals and others.”

State officials, preparing for a surge in demand for medical care, are considering converting the Hawai‘i Convention Center and Neal S. Blaisdell Center into health care facilities and adding a 14-day mandatory quarantine rule for those traveling interisland to match the requirements for domestic travelers.

In addition, a quarantine facility is being set up in Iwilei for up to 60 medically fragile homeless awaiting COVID-19 test results or who have tested positive for disease. Authorities are also identifying hotels on every island that can be repurposed into quarantine stations for people without homes.

Health officials hope lockdown and closure measures being taken statewide will help contain the spread, as well as residents heeding warnings to stay at home and practice social distancing.

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Health Director Bruce Anderson updates the state Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 today. Watch the live-stream of the Senate hearing below:

PREVIOUS COVERAGE

Hawaii Department of Health officials said today that the state’s tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 120, up 14 from Thursday.

Of all the confirmed cases in Hawaii since the start of the outbreak, eight have required hospitalization, state health officials said. As of Thursday, six of the hospitalized patients had been released, officials said.

Today’s tally includes 86 Oahu residents, 16 Maui County residents, seven Big Island residents, and five Kauai County residents. Four cases are pending identification of the county of residence, according to health officials.

Of the 120 cases, a total of 16 are non-Hawaii residents: five on Oahu, four on Kauai, four on Maui and three on the Big Island.

Health officials also said today’s total includes two Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state.

Today’s tally includes nine new cases on Oahu, two new cases on the Big Island and in Maui County, and one more pending identification of county of residency.

On Thursday, department officials said roughly 5,000 people have been tested in Hawaii, mostly by private laboratories, and that abroad surveillance program in which negative flu samples are further tested for the virus had found no coronavirus cases.

Still, officials are preparing for a surge in demand for medical care due to the new coronavirus and are considering converting the Hawai‘i Convention Center and Neal S. Blaisdell Center into health care facilities.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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