Updated: 3/4/20, 10:12 a.m.
Hawaii health officials say six samples that were tested locally for coronavirus have come back negative. The cases involved patients on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui. The results come as officials ramp up preparations for a possible virus outbreak in the islands.
The Hawaii Department of Health held a press conference Tuesday at the state laboratory in Pearl City where they demonstrated the coronavirus testing process, which is similar to that used for the flu.
Hawaii still had no confirmed coronavirus cases as of Wednesday morning, but if there is a positive result, the sample must be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.
The state has expanded the criteria for testing. Originally, people were only tested if they showed signs of lower respiratory illness, fever and had either traveled to China in the last 14 days or had direct contact with an infected person. The state has opened up the locations of travel to Iran, Iraq, Japan and South Korea.
People can also be tested for coronavirus if their doctor has confirmed through tests that they do not have any other illnesses.
However, state health director Bruce Anderson said someone could have coronavirus and flu at the same time.
"That's possible," he said. "In most cases, we're ruling out COVID-19 having found flu is the cause of the problem . . . It's where we can't find what's causing the problem that COVID-19 testing is so important. That's what we're doing now."
Meanwhile, the Federal Drug Administration has allowed private labs to begin testing. The Health Department will be working with the private labs to ensure the testing is accurate. While state testing for coronavirus is offered for free to the public, private labs may charge for the service.
The state labs in Hawaii can test up to 250 samples a week.
Edward Desmond, Department of Health State Labortories administrator, estimated that each kit can run 600 tests. The state has three kits. He explained that it woud take about a week to receive another kit from the CDC.
The state can have results from local tests within about four hours, but Anderson warned that transportation of samples from neighboring islands to Oahu would add to that time.
Gov. David Ige said he has spoken with officials at Wahiawa General Hospital, which is being evaluated as a potential location to isolate people infected with coronavirus.
Anderson said an isolation facility would be for Hawaii visitors, not residents.
"We're looking for places where people could get wraparound services they need, meals, housekeeping and other things," he said. "People who have homes here, as is the case all over the country, they're generally isolated or quarantined in their home, where they're comfortable and compliance is usually very, very good."
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.