First COVID-19 death report undergoing confirmation

Coronavirus

UPDATE 8:45 p.m. 3/24/2020: The department of health officials say the COVID-19 test for the Oahu adult who was initially thought to have died from the virus came back negative.

That means this person did not die from the coronavirus.

On Monday, state health officials told us testing done by the state laboratories division confirmed COVID-19 but again follow up testing today came back negative.

14 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on Tuesday bringing the total to 90. This as the state investigates the first potential death related to COVID-19.

Among the new Oahu cases, the Department of Transportation Services confirms is a city bus driver. They say, the driver was not at work when sick. Maui Health Systems also confirmed on Tuesday that one of its employees tested positive for the virus. They’re now working with the Health Department to ensure that everyone who was in close contact with this person is being screened.

As for the state’s first potential COVID-19 related death, the state says it’s running the test again. According to the state, the elderly adult from Oahu died Friday and had suffered from multiple underlying health conditions. The first test for COVID-19 was done by a private lab and was inconclusive.

The state tells us the person was admitted to the hospital on March 19th. Samples were also taken that day. The person died on the 20th. Results came back three days later and the state was notified.

“So I think it highlights that it’s not just a simple test, it requires skill, high-tech equipment, and there’s going to be with so many samples being run, there are going to be a few of these what we call ‘indeterminate’ results,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

A second test by the state came back positive for COVID but that result is being re-evaluated because of procedural issues at the state lab.

“We’re wanting to run that test again and we should have conclusive results on that before the end of today (Tuesday) because of the importance of these, any death associated with COVID-19 we develop a policy as of late to require retesting of any sample we have. We want to make sure that the results we have are accurate,” said Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Anderson.

Officials say the history for this person suggests they had a potential indirect travel-related exposure. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green spoke to us Tuesday morning and explained what that means.

“Usually means that they were in contact with somebody else who had been traveling and who was presumably positive and now who is sick. You’re probably going to see a lot of that because so many people have traveled and of course come back positive, that’s been a concern,” said Dr. Green.

Officials say they haven’t seen any evidence of wide-spread transmission based on the sentinel surveys they’ve been conducting. The 263 sentinel surveillance tests have all been negative.

“There was at least one individual we know is not associated with travel, and it just points to the fact that there is probably some amount of localized community transmission,” said Dr. Park.

Dr. Anderson says they have identified contacts associated with the patient and will be following up.

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