Community Spread of Coronavirus in Hawai‘i Still Undetected

March 13, 2020, 5:17 PM HST (Updated March 13, 2020, 5:17 PM)

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The first group of random tests from Hawai‘i’s community surveillance testing program, meant to identify and pinpoint potential community spread of COVID-19, are in — and the results are promising.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health tested 31 random samples from labs across the state, and all 31 came back negative for COVID-19. DOH collected the samples from clinical commercial labs across Hawai‘i and tested them at state laboratories.


The samples focused on patients who came in with flu-like symptoms but tested negative for the flu virus. The idea is those individuals may have had COVID-19, contracted through community spread.

Positive results would have indicated community spread of the disease, DOH said in a press release. However, the negative tests in the first batch do not guarantee community spread has not occurred, or will not occur.

Community spread of COVID-19 is defined as cases that cannot be traced back to a traveler or those who came in contact with someone who has been affected by the coronavirus. The goal of the program is to detect new cases quickly and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States.

Dr. Edward Desmond, state lab director, said the current testing capacity for COVID-19 is around 250 people weekly. The state plans to conduct proactive community testing to the tune of roughly 200 people per week while saving 50 tests for those patients who meet the criteria to be tested for coronavirus straight away.

Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that the testing of those who meet the criteria for COVID-19 will be prioritized over those tested through the community sentinel program.

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director 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 covering college athletics in 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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