HONOLULU (KHON2) — Health officials said they tested a California woman for COVID-19 overnight.
The results came back negative for COVID-19, but it was the first time a test kit was used in the islands.
Health officials say the woman, a healthcare worker from California, was treating a patient who was recently diagnosed with coronavirus.
The woman flew to Hawaii on Thursday.
“Last night, the DOH was informed by the CDC of a person under investigation traveling to Hawaii from California,” said Gov. David Ige. “The person was identified by contact tracking conducted by the CDC.”
“A sample was taken from the person on arrival and I’m glad to announce the state does now have the capacity to test for COVID 19 here in Hawaii,” he said.
Health officials said the woman tested negative for COVID-19 and another test indicated she had the common cold.
“As many of you know, we talked about anticipating having the capacity to test for COVID-19 early next week,” said Danette Wong-Tomiyasu, Deputy Director of Health Resources Administration at DOH. “We have a very dedicated staff that have been working around the clock because they knew this was a priority to really stand up the lab testing capability for the state.”
Having the test kits in Hawaii speeds up the process of waiting for results by days, even weeks.
“It’s always been my priority that we develop the ability to test here in the islands because we were able to get the results of the tests in 24 hours versus five to seven days it would be necessary to send to CDC in Atlanta,” said Ige.
Wong-Tomiyasu said the woman had mild cold-like symptoms and per CDC-protocol “was quarantined in her hotel room.”
“We received notification yesterday evening about this person arriving in the state so our investigative team immediately contacted the person to verify and do the health check,” explained DOH Dr. Sarah Kemble. “There were mild symptoms and that’s why we then deployed a team this morning to collect samples, and we actually provided guidance last night on how to implement quarantine in the hotel rooms so that no hotel workers would be exposed either so that person had the guidance and then rapid testing.”
State health officials say Hawaii will see a case soon enough.
“We do expect at some point to have a case here in the islands and the state and county responders are preparing for that incident,” Ige said.
Gov. Ige also said the CDC changed the guidance it has given physicians to identify potential cases of COVID-19. “So with that, we expect an increase in the number of cases,” Gov. Ige said.
The spread of the virus around the world has lawmakers concerned about Hawaii’s economy.
“Hawaii will be hit hard because of our proximity to Asia and our fragile economy that relies heavily on tourism and imports,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki.
“Hawaiʻi’s Department of Health, Department of Defense and other agencies have been focused on health preparedness,” Speaker Saiki said. “But just as importantly, we also need economic and financial preparedness.”
He said with the significant drop in the stock market and with the state’s economic dependence on tourism and imported goods, lawmakers must quickly prepare for the growing financial impact on Hawaii.
“The purpose of this committee is to prepare for any impacts that the state may experience. This committee will involve not just the government sector but the private sector, labor unions, and industries that would be impacted,” Saiki said.
He announced that he will introduce a resolution next week to form a Special Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness which will be asked to identify the potential economic and financial impact on Hawaiʻi from the coronavirus, develop short-term and long-term mitigation plans, and monitor conditions and outcomes.
Speaker Saiki told his colleagues in the House that the World Health Organization has raised its global spread warning of coronavirus or COVID-19 from “high” to “very high.” Saiki said the State Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism reported a 7.3 percent drop in international passengers to Hawaiʻi in February and an estimated loss of $23 million in visitor expenditures due to the temporary suspension of flights to and from South Korea.
Saiki said that during the 2008-2009 recession the state was forced to make budget cuts of $2.1 billion over a three-year period.
“The state had to make some drastic decisions such as implementing the Furlough Friday program and reducing the public school week to four days. We need to be prepared for what may happen with coronavirus and how that may affect our state. If we are prepared, we should be in a position to mitigate any impacts that the state may experience from the virus,” he said.
The novel coronavirus has killed more than 2,800 people worldwide, the vast majority in mainland China. There have been more than 83,000 global cases with infections in every continent except Antarctica.
No cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Hawaii at this time.