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VIDEO: Man who became Hawaii’s first coronavirus death likely caught disease in Las Vegas, state says

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The state’s first and only COVID-19 victim likely caught the disease in Las Vegas and brought it back with him to Hawaii.

State Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said a review of the case was completed today with results pointing to coronavirus as the cause.

On Tuesday, Gov. David Ige and health officials announced the state’s first coronavirus-related death, an “older” Oahu man with underlying health conditions who died Monday night.

No other details were disclosed today, except that the victim had recently visited Las Vegas, an area where transmission of the coronavirus has been active, Anderson said

“We are sending a specimen to our state lab for testing but we expect the results to remain positive,” he said.

The death is among the 258 coronavirus cases now confirmed in Hawaii, up 34 from Tuesday — the largest increase yet in the state.

Despite the record number, Anderson acknowledged at a press conference this afternoon that total COVID-19 cases and deaths will rise substantially.

“We fully expected to see an uptick in the cases,” he said. “What we’re seeing now is a shift from cases which are imported — travelers or people who came in contact with travelers — to cases where there is no travel history.”

Asked when the outbreak would peak, Anderson said officials are looking at a number of models that range from a few weeks to a few months.

“It’s almost impossible to predict at this point in time,” he said. “We’re still early on in our course of the epidemic in Hawaii. I expect it will get worse before it gets better.”

Anderson said it was important for Hawaii’s population to continue following the governor’s social distancing mandates to allow health investigators a better chance of tamping down on the epidemic.

Tim Sakahara, state Department of Transportation spokesman, said so far it appears Hawaii is complying with the latest mandate, an interisland travel restriction that includes a 14-day quarantine for people visiting other islands. The mandate went into effect this morning.

“I was at the airport this morning, and it is like I’ve never seen it before — here or at any major airport. There are so few people at the airport. It’s sad in a lot of ways because it’s going to hurt for a long time for the people in the transportation industry. But it’s positive in that it shows people are taking this to heart. They are not traveling, especially when it is not necessary, and they are dong their part,” Sakahara said.

Overall arrivals are down 98.5% compared to this time last year, he said, and it is anticipated that it will drop even more now that fewer interisland passengers will be flying with the new mandate.

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Hawaii Department of Health officials said today that the state’s tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 258, up 34 from Tuesday.

Of all the confirmed cases in Hawaii since the start of the outbreak, 15 have required hospitalizations, state health officials said today, up two from Tuesday.

Most of the new Hawaii cases today are on Oahu.

Today’s statewide total includes 182 cases on Oahu, 26 in Maui County, 18 on Hawaii island, and 12 in Kauai County, according to health officials. Of those county cases, a total of 20 were non-residents of Hawaii: seven on Oahu, five in Kauai County, four each in Maui County and on the Big Island.

The statewide total also includes two Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

Eighteen cases in the statewide total are pending identification of county, which include five new cases reported today.

In all, state officials today reported 25 new cases on Oahu, three new cases on Hawaii island, and one new cases on Maui. No new cases were reported on Kauai.

A total 69 patients have recovered since the start of the outbreak, with health officials reporting 11 new recoveries today.

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

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