First Person Sent to Coronavirus Quarantine in Hawai‘i

February 10, 2020, 3:43 PM HST (Updated February 10, 2020, 3:43 PM)
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Health officials on Monday ushered the first person into Hawai‘i’s Coronavirus quarantine system at Pearl Harbor.

The patient, a male resident of Hawai‘i, arrived at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday morning. He was found to have traveled through Hubei Province — where Coronavirus is believed to have originated — on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said state officials were aware of the situation within an hour and quarantined the man based on policy and an overabundance of caution. It is mandatory to quarantine anyone who arrives in Hawai‘i with a two-week travel history that includes the Hubei Province.

“This person is well, healthy, no symptoms,” Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said of the individual in quarantine.

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Park, Green and DOH Director Bruce Anderson in a press conference Monday reiterated time and again that there are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the state even despite the day’s developments.

“I repeat, we have no cases,” Green said.

The news of the traveler’s arrival in Honolulu Monday came on the heels of a report that DOH is currently monitoring 26 separate individuals across the state for signs of the Coronavirus, all of whom have visited at least one part of China within the last two weeks.

These individuals are also engaged in self-quarantines — separating themselves as much as possible from society and paying close attention to their health — as officials monitor them several times daily via methods like videoconferencing and telephone calls.

Bruce Anderson.

Anderson said “a handful” of those 26 people are residents of the state, while others are just passing through Hawai‘i and are utilizing various other lodging options including hotels.

“That number is going to change every day,” he continued. “People are coming and going … whether they stay here for two days or a week.”

“There will be more people returning from China, for sure,” Green added.

Park explained that the names and precise locations of all 26 individuals being monitored, as well as the name of the one patient in quarantine, can not be shared due to privacy laws.

US citizens, parents of citizens and green card holders are allowed to travel to the US from China, with their entries restricted to 11 airports, HNL among them.

There are no direct China–Hawai‘i flights. The quarantined man who visited Hubei Province — though not the city of Wuhan believed to be the Coronavirus epicenter — traveled from China through another country and then arrived in Honolulu. DOH confirmed he was traveling alone.

If any of the 27 people in question become symptomatic, they will be taken to a hospital and put in isolation.

“Their movements are monitored,” Anderson said. “Their health conditions are monitored every day. We’re following up on those individuals.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green

None of the 27 have yet been officially tested for the virus, though Green said the man in quarantine will be. The state expects to have the capability to test on-site in a matter of days.

As for the people who flew on one or more airplanes with the quarantined man, Park said it’s highly unlikely any of them need to worry about infection.

Officials would not provide the name of the airline or the number of the relevant flight, referring those questions to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While the medical community is still studying to understand the Coronavirus better, it’s generally believed people suffering from contagious respiratory conditions are most infectious during those times when they present symptoms. Furthermore, positive tests are only coming from people already displaying symptoms of the disease, which are believed to show up between 2 and 14 days after exposure.

The Hawai‘i resident in quarantine has shown no symptoms. Neither have any of the 26 monitored individuals who were in the state Monday.

“If this becomes a global pandemic, it’ll change everything. But for now, this is also a good test for us,” Green said of the opportunity to evaluate the state’s quarantine system.

Located at Pearl Harbor, the quarantine center is akin to a dormitory, Green continued. The set up allows for monitoring a patient without making any direct contact for a period of two weeks.

“It’s highly likely this individual will ride out 14 days and return to their regular (life),” Green said.

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. DOH photo.

As of Monday, doctors had confirmed only 12 cases of Coronavirus in the United States. Ten had originated in China, two had spread by close interpersonal contact upon return. There have been no deaths from Coronavirus inside the US.

As of Monday, more than 40,000 cases of the virus had been confirmed in China, with an international death toll topping 1,000, including more than 100 who died Monday. Over the weekend, Coronavirus surpassed the death toll from the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Still, those numbers pale in comparison to the number of flu cases in 2020. More than 22 million cases of the flu have been confirmed this year, Green said, and one of every 1,000 of those cases will result in death.

“If someone is sick, they’re more than likely going to be found to have the flu,” Anderson said.

Health officials continue to stress handwashing and other hygienic health practices to curb the spread of all infectious diseases.

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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