Hawaii Updates: Public Access Room Closes, Canada Visitor Tests Positive, Leahi Limits Visits

Mar 11, 2020

See the latest updates for 3/12/2020.

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: 3/11/20 7:24 p.m.

Where Hawaii stands

As of Wednesday afternoon, the health department reports there are still two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Hawaii. Both involved travel out of state. 

Six cases are under investigation pending tests and 41 people are self-monitoring at home under supervision by the health department. Of the 41, 36 are on Oahu, 4 are on Maui and 1 is on Kauai.

Hawaii's first coronavirus case traveled to Mexico on the Grand Princess cruise ship from Feb. 11-21. After his return to the state, the man fell ill on March 1 and was tested on March 6. The results came back positive. Health officials say he has mild to moderate symptoms, is in stable condition and remains quarantined at home on Oahu. Officials said in their latest update that the health department is conducting a detailed investigation to identify, notify and advise all close contacts as quickly as possible.

Following the Mexico trip, the Grand Princess visited Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island between Feb 26-29. The health department said it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to notify any passengers in Hawaii and trace all close contacts.

Health officials say the exposure risk to tour operators and others who provided hospitality services to cruise ship visitors is low. The health department said companies should find out if any employees had close contact for more than 10 minutes with cruise ship passengers and that employees should be notified that passengers and crew members have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state's second case involves an elderly man who is in serious condition at Kaiser Permanente's Moanalua hospital. He visited Washington state, became sick on March 2 and flew back from Seattle to Honolulu March 4 on Hawaiian Airlines HA21 while showing symptoms. He visited an urgent care clinic and returned home, where his condition worsened. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Saturday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that include fever and cough. Recovery occurs for the vast majority of people within a few weeks. But especially for older adults and those with underlying health problems, the coronavirus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. 

Information on steps to keep yourself safe is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

Canadian health officials: Healthcare worker tests positive after Hawaii trip

Officials with Canadian's Hamilton Health Sciences and Halton Region Public Health said today that a frontline health worker who returned from Hawaii Saturday tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday.

It is the 41st confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ontario.

The woman in her 30s is at home in Burlington and self-quarantined, according to a statement on the Halton Region Public Health website. Officials said they are "actively engaged in contact tracing and case management."

Global News reports that the woman is an oncologist with the Juravinski Cancer Centre. She saw 14 patients on March 9 and came into contact with other doctors, health care workers and a resident. On that day, the doctor became symptomatic and was tested. The positive results were returned on Tuesday.

A health official said the doctor reported having no symptoms when she flew back to Canada.

The Hawaii health department said it had not received any information on the Canadian doctor. The department explained that it reached out to the federal government, but has not yet heard back.

Capitol Public Access Room closed as precaution

A roommate of an employee at the state Capitol Public Access Room may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus. 

No one who works in the public access room had direct contact with the infected person and none have showed symptoms, state legislative leaders said in a news release Wednesday.

The roommate, a rideshare driver, was contacted by the state health department and informed that he had a passenger on March 4 who tested positive. 

The health department asked the roommate to self-quarantine for 14 days, although the roommate has not exhibited symptoms.

The public access room will remain closed until March 18 "out of an abundance of caution," said the lawmakers.

Leahi, Maluhia hospitals strictly limiting visitors

Leahi and Maluhia hospitals, which care for elderly patients, began prohibiting visits Tuesday, except in certain circumstances. The actions are based on guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that is aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Sean Sanada, chief administrative officer for HI Health Systems Corp. Oahu Region, said the precautions follow on the experience in other states, particularly Washington, which has seen a major outbreak of coronavirus in nursing homes.

Twenty-five people have died in Washington, 19 of them in a suburban Seattle nursing home.

Sanada said those who have not traveled to restricted countries, have no symptoms and pass a screening for fever are allowed to visit but only if they are seeing residents who are in hospice or end of life stages.

If people are turned away, the hospitals arrange for electronic communication such as Facetime or Skype to allow the visitors and residents to connect.

Because most residents share a room with three others, any visits that are allowed occur outside of the rooms. After visits, the rooms where the visits occur are deep-cleaned, he said.

Leahi and Maluhia serve over 100 residents each and each has a staff of about 200.

Community testing starts this week

State officials announced Tuesday that random community testing for coronavirus will begin this week, starting with about 6o tests. Officials plan eventually to test about 200 people a week.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said the sentinel surveillance program addresses concerns that the health department's testing has focused on the serious cases while patients with more mild symptoms may be carrying the virus into the community.

While the sentinel testing will be random, state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said the selection of the cases will reflect the state's population, covering categories like age and ethnicities. The testing will be conducted in all counties.

U.S. Army holds town hall on coronavirus

The U.S. Army Hawaii held a Facebook Live town hall on the coronavirus outbreak today.

Representatives from Tripler Army Medical Center, the Schofield Barrack Desmond Doss Health Clinic, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii and other medical and installation professions provided updates on COVID-19 and answered questions.

The recorded Facebook Town Hall can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/usaghawaii/

Governor to attend Pearl City-Aiea legislative town hall

A town hall with Gov. David Ige sponsored by seven lawmakers is set today, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Pearl Ridge Elementary School Cafeteria, 98-940 Moanalua Road in Aiea.

The subject of the coronavirus is likely to come up, along with other issues before the Legislature.

The town hall will be recorded and rebroadcast on ‘Ōlelo Community Media on March 30, 6 p.m.; April 1, 10 p.m., April 6, 2 p.m. and April 8, 9:30 a.m., all on ‘Ōlelo Channel 49.

Hawaii Kai town hall set with lieutenant governor

A town hall meeting on the coronavirus is scheduled tonight, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Haha'ione Elementary School, 595 Pepeekeo St., in Hawaii Kai.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green is a speaker at the event sponsored by state Rep. Gene Ward, Rep. Mark Hashem and City Councilman Tommy Waters.

Maui mayor to discuss coronavirus updates

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino will discuss updates on COVID-19 and address some frequently asked quesstions during his Holo I Mua television show tonight. He'll be joined by Dr. Lorrin Pang of the Maui District Health Office and Dr. Lee Weiss, medical director and chairman of the Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

The show airs on Akaku Blue Channel 55 at 7 p.m.

Kauai mayor's State of the County speech to go online

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami is set to give his State of the County address this week. But instead of a traditional gathering for the speech, he will pre-record and upload it to the county’s website and Facebook page.

The address should be available online by noon on Friday, March 13.

Kawakami, along with other county mayors, signed emergency proclamations earlier this month as they prepare for the possible local spread of the coronavirus.

FESTPAC sets 2021 date for rescheduled event

The Festival of Pacific Arts & Culture announced June 18-27, 2021 as its new dates for the postponed event.

FESTPAC placed the event on hold following concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. 

The festival is held every four years by Pacific Island nations that take turns hosting the event. Hawaii was to be the venue this year and expected as many as 3,000 delegates from 28 nations. 

The festival's aim is to preserve traditional practices and to share arts and culture during the event.

Education Week at the Legislature canceled this year

The annual Education Week at the state Capitol has been postponed because of concerns over the coronavirus. 

“While we have no cases of COVID-19 at the Capitol at this time, we are following the health department’s recommendation to implement ‘social distancing’ by avoiding large gatherings such as the Education Week presentations,” said state Sen. Michelle Kidani, chair of the Senate education committee.

Education Week was scheduled next week to honor school students, teachers, administrators and staff statewide.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.