State officials discuss coronavirus threat to Hawaii

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The amount of people infected by the Coronavirus has reached 20,000. The majority of patients are in mainland China. The death toll has risen to 425. Only two deaths have occurred outside China.

The number of cases in the United States stands at 11.

The U.S. is one of 26 countries or territories outside China with coronavirus cases.

There are still no cases in Hawaii, and state health officials said the risk remains low but it is possible Hawaii could get a case.

In a news conference on Monday, they discussed what is being done to protect the state.

“On Jan. 17, there was 45 cases of Novel Coronavirus and two deaths,” said one state official. “Today, just a few weeks later, the virus has infected almost 17,000 people and caused more than 300 deaths in China.”

Rep. Gene Ward (R) Hawaii Kai- Kalama Valley asked officials what the likelihood of Hawaii getting a case of Coronavirus was.

“Both Dr. Bruce Anderson and Dr. Sarah Park have stated it’s just a matter of time until we get a case here in Hawaii,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO.

“So, it’s a matter of when not if,” Ward asked.

“I’m quoting what they said, yes,” Hilton responded.

Officials went over different scenarios here in Hawaii but re-assured that there have been no cases or suspected cases of Coronavirus here in Hawaii.

“Should we find such an individual, that individual would be ill, have a fever or cough, or has shortness of breath and has traveled to Hubei Province, potentially mainland China, but really we’re talking about Hubei,” Dr. Park said. “That group by the way is quickly narrowing because the lockdown in China occurred 12 days ago so we anticipate by midweek this week that group is almost non-existent outside of China.”

“I suspect it would be someone who already arrived in Hawaii and is not showing any symptoms,” she said.

She said everyone is being screened from other airports and here in Honolulu. “So we would know about these individuals and they would be in quarantine,” Dr. Park said.

The state said they tried to remove Honolulu from the federal list of airports to funnel China travelers through.

“The concern is that we’re still on the list in case there has to be an airline that lands,” explained Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green. “We do not expect that to happen. There is not going to be a significant number of people coming from the hot zone area that we have to worry about.”

The Department of Health announced Pearl Harbor as a quarantine spot if it is needed and said they had been working with the military on the decision.

“They have secure facilities, limited public access, and they have support facilities and staff to help provide meals and other wrap around services those individuals would need the 14 days they’re here,” explained DOH Director Anderson.

“The closure of Wuhan in Hubei entirely which by Thursday will be 14 days into the incubation period, so we should have no one coming to Hawaii from that area that’s been there in the last 14 days,” Anderson said.

“We’re probably talking about a handful of people that are going to require this quarantine.”

Dr. Park said passing someone who has the virus isn’t enough to catch the virus.

“Like passing someone at the airport or sitting by someone for 10 minutes or on the airplane does not put you at risk,” she explained. “It’s really, did you have contact, directly, close, person-to-person contact, household contact, intimate contact with a confirmed case? This risk group would be health care workers or care takers.”

Because Coronavirus symptoms are so similar to the flu, doctors are urging people to get their flu shots so it’s easy to differentiate between the two viruses.

“We will see more fatalities,” said Dr. Green. “The death rate of the flu, in general, is about one in 1,000, some will die. The death rate of the Novel Coronavirus is significantly higher than that. We don’t have final numbers yet but it involves about two to three people per 100. So it’s much more lethal, as long as we do a good job at preventing the spread, we’ll be fine.”

Health officials are also asking people to check their facts before sharing rumors on social media about the virus.

“It’s harmful to our communities because it’s not getting the important information out,” said Dr. Park.

“We need to prepare for the eventual likelihood that this virus could be in our communities.”

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