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Hawaii Updates: No School Closures For Now, Private Tests Available, Maui Seeks Quarantine Stations

Ryan Piros
Maui County

See latest updates for 3/14/20.

The news on the Hawaii front of the coronavirus battle is swiftly changing. Here are live updates on local health, economic and societal impacts from the spread of COVID-19.

Updated: 3/13/20, 6:03 p.m. 

Where Hawaii stands

Hawaii continues to have two presumptive positive coronavirus cases, as of this afternoon. Seven cases are under investigation with testing pending, according to the state health department. 

The state and Tripler Army Health Center have tested for 54 cases, although it has the capacity to test for at least 250 cases a week.

Twenty-seven people are self-monitoring under health department supervision. Twenty-four are on Oahu and three are on Maui.

No school closures for now

State Health Director Bruce Anderson says Hawaii is not at a point where it needs to close the schools in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

At a press conference today, Anderson noted other states and city school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, have shut down classes in response to the pandemic.

“I don't foresee that in the near future at least we're going to be closing schools here," Anderson said.

"Obviously, if you close a school, you've got childcare issues and other issues out there. And kids can get exposed as equally well in the mall or wherever they may end up. So there are lots of pros and cons associated with school closure that that we're looking at, and we'll continue to look at, but at this point in time, we're not contemplating closing any schools."

He said that could change as the outbreak develops. 

Anderson said the health department is issuing guidance to the schools about large gatherings, including graduations and proms. The department has already advised that events of 100 people or more be postponed or canceled.

The department has also put out advice to families for the spring break. They include exercising caution in taking trips and in spending time in theaters, restaurants and shopping malls.

Where local private coronavirus testing available

Companies are rolling out private tests locally for the coronavirus, some providing curbside screening. Call ahead to get instructions on appointments and procedures. Some of the labs require you contact your doctor first before going in for tests. Among the labs offering the tests are:

Until this week, only the state health department and the Tripler Army Medical Center were testing for COVID-19, leading to complaints from health providers that the testing was too focused on the most serious cases and missing a possible spread in the community.
State health officials say the expansion of tests among private companies may address those concerns. The health department is also rolling out a surveillance program that aims to detect cases in the community, with the goal to test up to 200 people a week.

High school sports competition suspended 

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association and its member leagues today suspended interscholastic games indefinitely starting Monday as a precaution against the developing coronavirus pandemic.

“The priority of the HHSAA continues to be the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and members of the community,” said HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun. “We hope that play can resume before the school year ends, but must be mindful not to jeopardize the health of our community in doing so. This decision was not made lightly and is supported unanimously by our member leagues.”

The suspension includes competition held by the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, Interscholastic League of Honolulu, Kauai Interscholastic Federation, Maui Interscholastic League and the Oahu Interscholastic Association. 

HHSAA said it will decide when to resume activities after consulting with the state Department of Health and lieutenant governor's office. Decisions about the spring state tournaments scheduled for May are being evaluated, the group said.

Maui closing county facilities for 30 days

The County of Maui is closing its fields, pools, gyms and public restrooms for the next 30 days starting tomorrow for added precautions during the coronavirus crisis, officials said in a statement. County community centers will close starting Monday.

County offices will remain open for regular business and beach parks and the Waiehu Golf Course will also not be closed for now.

The mayor also advised sports to temporarily suspend activities.

“Although we still have no confirmed cases in Maui County, we want to continue taking proactive measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus within our community,” Mayor Michael Victorino said.

Maui mayor wants quarantine capacity

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino wants the state’s help in securing quarantine stations on the island in the case of a COVID-19 outbreak. Maui County currently has no confirmed cases of the virus.

He says Maui County currently has no quarantine stations to help prevent the spread of the virus if it’s found in the community.

Victorino is asking the state Department of Transportation’ Airport Division to look into using an old rental car center near the Kahului Airport to isolate any patients.

"They’ve got buildings there, they’ve got it fenced, and they’ve got plumbingWe could do a lot of quarantine and treatment right there and accessible to the airports and other supplies. Very accessible to medical staff and medical facilitates so we don’t inundate our hospitals or clinics because we need something if an outbreak were to occur.

Victorino discussed the idea (THURSDAY) at a press conference on the county’s plans for preventing and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

State correctional facilities suspend inmate visits

The state Department of Public Safety put a hold on inmate visitors effective Thursday, director Nolan 
Espinda announced.

"We understand how important visitrs are to the inmates as well as their familu members, bit we also under that COVID-19 may eventually be present at one of our facilities and that is why, out of an abundance of caution, we are suspending personal visits at our facilities statewide," Espinda stated.

There have been no inmates confirmed with the coronavirus in Hawaii correctional facilities.

The department said it has a comprehensive plan to safeguard the health of all inmates and staff in the correctional facilities. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, meanwhile, called on DPS urging it to take "immediate action in developing a proactive, evidence-based plan for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in the correctional and detention facilities," which houses about 5,000 inmates.

Polynesian Cultural Center closing temporarily

The Polynesian Cultural Center visitor destination in Laie plans to close for two weeks, March 16-31, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know this is disappointing news and ask for everyone’s understanding. The decision to close was made to help protect the health and safety of our guests and employees," said Alfred Grace, president and CEO.

Many of the cultural center's workers are Brigham Young University Hawaii students. The university canceled in person classes starting today and to Tuesday, March 17.  On Wednesday, the university will move classes online, as the University of Hawaii plans to do starting March 23.

United Okinawa Association anniversary event canceled

The Hawaii United Okinawa Association has postponed its 120th Anniversary of Okinawan Immigration observance scheduled for May 14-17, "in the best interest for the health and safety of its members, volunteers and general public," the group said in a letter to supporters.

The cancelation follows actions taken by the Merrie Monarch Festival, Honolulu Festival and FESTPAC to put off large gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

HUOA plans to continue planning for its 38th Okinawan Festival, scheduled for Sept. 5-6, 2020.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. See yesterday's updates.

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