DOH Shifts Gears in Fight to Protect Hawai‘i From COVID-19

February 27, 2020, 8:08 AM HST (Updated March 12, 2020, 6:34 PM)
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The Hawai‘i Department of Health has shifted its focus on the state’s strategy to combating COVID-19 from containment to mitigation.

Chair of the House Health Committee Rep. John M. Mizuno (Kamehameha Heights, Kalihi Valley, Lower Kalihi) said because the COVID-19 illness is such a fluid situation, a change of focus was needed in Hawaiʻi’s strategy to combat the virus and safeguard Hawaiʻi against the illness.

“To date the Department of Health has taken a new position moving forward from ‘containment’ to ‘mitigation’ because Hawaii will have cases of this illness,” Mizuno said. “Moreover, the DOH is providing information to residents to prepare for an emergency, similar to a hurricane, to have a 14-day supply of food, water, first aid kit, flashlights and an extra supply of medications.”

While no cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the state up to this point, Department of Health Deputy Director Danette Tomiyasu said, they do expect to eventually identify cases here because it is a global threat to the entire nation.

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“While an imminent threat to Hawaiʻi is low, our state, local and county agencies are intensifying our preparations, and we are asking the community to take steps now should the risk of community spread increase,” Tomiyasu said. “We really are shifting from a containment posture to mitigation because we will likely see it in our community.”

As of Wednesday, there were 71 individuals self-monitoring with public health supervision. Four of those individuals are on the Big Island. Sixty-five are on Oahu, one is on Maui and one is on Kauai.

“There is an urgency to inform the public on the worldwide public health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mizuno said. “The State of Hawaiʻi is working with the federal government and its county partners to inform residents and reduce the risk the contracting the coronavirus. Enhanced screening, protective protocols, and coordinating a prudent health defense system between state and federal agencies will ensure the health and safety of our people.”

Mizuno will hold a Legislative Briefing on the COVID-19 illness in March. The date, time and place of the informational briefing have not yet been announced.

The informational briefing comes after the US declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak in China and the news that in addition to restricting flights from China to the United States, South Korea and many other countries may also be restricted from arriving to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.

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