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Hawaii state senator questions whether he had COVID-19

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                                Clarence Nishihara


    Clarence Nishihara

State Sen. Clarence Nishihara, whose positive COVID-19 test led to the March 19 shutdown of the state Capitol, said Wednesday his test may have been a false positive.

Shortly after Nishihara tested positive, state officials closed the Capitol. The 2020 Legislative session was suspended March 16. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday for a six- to 10-day mini session.

Nishihara said he has had three antibody tests since his positive COVID-19 test, and those tests suggest he may have never had the virus. A positive antibody test is an indication that an individual has had COVID-19 and is unlikely to get it again. Nishihara said his three antibody tests, including one at a blood bank, were all negative.

“It raised in my mind whether it (his COVID-19 test in March) was possibly a false positive, but the health department pretty much is on the idea that based upon the test that they use that if you tested positive then you are positive,” Nishihara said Wednesday in a phone interview. “You can’t argue with the health department on that one.”

The 76-year-old Democrat is in his fourth term representing Waipahu, Crestview, Manana, Pearl City and Pacific Palisades.

Nishihara was at the Capitol on Wednesday wearing a mask his wife made for him.

Nishihara said it feels like it’s any other day, except the desks are spread farther apart, and there’s a room full of people wearing masks. Now that he’s back to work, he felt that his colleagues are “no longer pissed off” at him for shutting it down.

“Some of my colleagues called to see how I was doing,” he said, referring to his time in quarantine. “None of them said, ‘You were the reason you shut down the Capitol.’ They may think it, but they never said it.”

Nishihara’s predicament had caused a ruckus at the Capitol. Many of his colleagues were disgruntled at first because many of them were sitting in the same meeting rooms as Nishihara.

He was the first at the Capitol to test positive for COVID-19.

Nishihara said around February he felt unwell and had a fever for about a week. His doctor gave him a flu test, which was negative. When the fever was gone, Nishihara asked if he could take a trip to Las Vegas. He went from Feb. 22 to 25.

When he came back he said he didn’t feel well. He visited an urgent care clinic and told them about his February symptoms.

He was tested for COVID-19 on March 12 and didn’t get his positive test result back until March 19.

“When they did the testing, I was surprised when it came back positive.”

When he received the results, he immediately informed his colleagues and staff.

He said he regrets traveling in February, but he doesn’t want to blame Las Vegas for his illness since he is not exactly sure where he got it.

When he was confined in his Waipahu home, Nishihara said, he didn’t have a TV to pass the time. He got by with using his laptop and reading books. He said he had no fever, no sniffles and no cough during his quarantine.

He would only leave his bedroom to use the rest­room. Sometimes he would eyeball the refrigerator for snacks before being escorted back to his room by his wife.

“I felt like I was in prison,” he said.

He found himself relying on FaceTiming his wife for any essential needs or to catch up with his family and friends.

After about two weeks of quarantine, the first thing Nishihara did was step onto his yard for fresh air.

Now working at the Capitol, Nishihara has been handing out his wife’s handmade face masks to his staff and colleagues.

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