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What You Need to Know About the Coronavirus and Hawai‘i

A Japanese visitor to Hawaiʻi developed COVID-19 after he returned to Japan. This new respiratory virus, first identified in Wuhan, China has killed more than 1,368 and sickened more than 60,200, mostly in China.


An illustration of the coronavirus.

this illustration shows the structure of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-ncov). the spikes around the outside give it the look of a corona, or crown, which gives the virus its name.
illustrations: centers for disease control and prevention


This is a live article, last updated at 3 p.m. on February 14, 2020.


  • A man visiting Hawai‘i from Japan from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7 was diagnosed with the new virus COVID-19 after he returned to Japan, Gov. David Ige said today (Feb. 14). "We do believe this is a serious concern," Ige said. State health officials are investigating who might have been exposed.

  • State Health Director Bruce Anderson says the Japanese visitor was in the Islands for 11 days—on Maui from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, then on O‘ahu from Feb. 3 to 7— at the Grand Waikīkīan Hawai‘i Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare, which has been notified. "Itʻs very likely this person was exposed in Japan or in transit to Hawai‘i," Anderson said, since the disease has an incubation period of roughly 2 to 14 days.

  • State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park says the traveler had no fever on Maui and cold-like symptoms on O'ahu, which is encouraging as officials investigate if the disease has spread. She said the main concerns would be people who were in close contact with the man during the 11 days. "Our focus is who this person might have sat down with, had conversations with," she said, and that they would be monitored, quarantined or tested as appropriate. Park reminds everyone to wash hands, stay home when they are sick and minimize any risk.

  • Anderson said that the state is investigating where the visitor and his wife went during their stay. "There is still much that we donʻt know," Ige said, but is working to find out more and released the information shortly after learning it from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Park initially declined to identify the airline that the visitors traveled on: "We do know that he was wearing a mask," which would have been useful in helping to keep a sick person from spreading the disease.


SEE ALSO: Fear of the Coronavirus Has Sent Mask Sales Soaring Across the World

  • The WHO announced February 13 announced that 44 more people aboard the quarantined cruise liner Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan, bringing to 218 the number of infected. Officials reported that one of those confirmed and hospitalized is among six Hawai‘i residents aboard. The 72-year-old woman’s family is declining to be identified.

  • The number of cases of the new coronavirus case continues to rise—more than 60,200 as of February 14 with at least 1,368 deaths, most closest to the epicenter in China, causing a worldwide ripple effect of worry and soaring sales of masks.

  • Travel to and from China has been severely restricted with all direct flights suspended between China and Honolulu. Green explained that the resident, traveling alone who just entered mandatory quarantine traveled from Hubei and other regions in China, then to another country and flew from an unidentified country to Honolulu. Anderson says the person was flagged properly by the system which is designed to protect the community by being cautious even for people without symptoms. Park says the traveler has no symptoms which officials believe means the risk to be "very low" to other passengers or flight crew on the plane.

  • The state Health Department says some people in Hawai‘i who traveled within the past 14 days to China are self-monitoring at home. Spokeswoman Janice Okubo said these people do not have symptoms and being monitored in case they become sick but pose no imminent health risk. “They are not under mandatory quarantine because they do not have any symptoms and did not travel from Hubei Province,” Okubo said. State health officials said the number of people tallied seven last week but number rose to 47 as of February 13 and will continue to shift as travelers remain well and some return home to other states and countries.

  • Federal officials notified the Hawai‘i Department of Health that two asylum seekers from China arrived at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport before the mandatory quarantine took effect on Sunday, Feb. 9. They were taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. State Rep. Gene Ward first announced the news in a tweet on Feb. 4. A spokeswoman for the health department says the two individuals are being held at the federal detention center and present no risk to the public.

  • On February 11, the World Health Organization named the disease COVID-19, avoiding any mention of the place, people or animals at the epicenter of the disease.

  • The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to 15, when the disease was detected in a patient who had recently returned from Wuhan to California and was in mandatory federal quarantine in San Diego; another who had returned from Wuhan to Texas.

  • Federal officials have designated the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as an airport that can receive flights from affected areas because it has airport quarantine capabilities.

  • Okubo also confirmed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health laboratory in Atlanta currently conducts the only testing in the nation for the 2019 novel coronavirus. The Doctors of Waikīkī clinic is offering and promoting private coronavirus testing. But Okubo said, “All other claims in Hawai‘i for screening and testing for the virus are not legitimate.” Okubo said the CDC is shipping laboratory test kits to the state Health Department here which could be used to conduct testing should patients meet the criteria. Anderson said the initial kits were found to be faulty so new are being prepped to be sent.

  • About $100,000 worth of protective masks and clothing was sent from Honolulu by private business officials with the Hawai‘i Fujian Business Association. The association leaders, including L & L Hawaiian Barbecue founder Eddie Flores, shipped the supplies along with a message of support from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to Fuzhou city, in Fujian province, an area of China that's been affected but not at epicenter.


Responding to growing concern over the outbreak of a new virus in China, Hawai‘i officials have come together to emphasize that there have been no cases of Hawai‘i residents within the state confirmed with the disease and describe what can be done to prevent spread of the disease.


“We are taking the necessary actions that we need to,” said Gov. Ige at a news conference today, February 14, at the state Health Department. He was flanked by state health director Bruce Anderson, epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, as well as a private hotel and hospital representatives.


“We are taking the situation very seriously,” Anderson said. The state is closely watching the now 15 U.S. cases of COVID-19 reported in Arizona, Illinois, California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Texas and Washington state, officials said.

 Park said: “We’re alert, we’re aware, we’re investigating, we’re making sure that we protect Hawai‘i.”


Ige, Anderson and Park emphasized again on February 14 that the state is coordinating with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, various other government agencies and business groups within the dominant visitor industry. Ige added, “we will continue to be fully engaged and keep you updated as the information becomes available.”


While Hawai‘i remains a crossroads for international travel, the number of visitors from China is small, “less than 1% of our arrivals,” and declining, said Chris Tatum, president and CEO of the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority. There have been more than  60,200 confirmed cases worldwide, most in China. One person died in the Philippines and one in Japan.


Anderson said that a Pearl Harbor military base site has been identified as the quarantine location for any travelers designated as high-risk.


Here’s what you need to know:


Anderson says the state recommends against traveling to China at this time. “Various areas in China have been placed under quarantine by the Chinese government and travel within the country is either completely prohibited or significantly curtailed to prevent the spread of this disease,” he said.


Anderson confirmed the CDC is operating its quarantine station at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. And the federal government announced that Honolulu’s airport has been designated as one of 11 in the U.S. where flights from China will be allowed to land.


President Trump declared a public health emergency, which severely limits flights from China and orders as long as a 14-day quarantine for travelers returning from the Hubei province where the disease is centered.


On Friday, Jan. 31, Hawai‘i transportation officials issued this statement regarding airport concerns: “The state continues to work with federal, county and private partners to plan, prepare and be ready to execute measures implemented by the federal authorities to keep the public safe.”


Park offers these tips:

  • “Stay educated.” She pointed to a patient in Washington state who had traveled to Hubei Province and called health care providers upon recognizing potential symptoms and followed instructions to remain isolated from others.

  • “It’s flu season: get your flu shot.” Even if it won’t prevent the new coronavirus, it can help reduce the burden on the health care system.

  • “If you’re sick, do not travel, do not get on a bus, do not go to work, do not go to school. Stay home please.”

  • Wash your hands. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use hand sanitizer.

  • “Do not rely on social media; do not rely on rumors.”




What are coronaviruses? 

According to the CDC, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses named for the crownlike spikes on their surface. They are common in many species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, these animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people. Human coronaviruses are also common throughout the world and can cause mild to moderate illness such as a common cold. 


Should I buy a mask to protect myself from the virus?

Park says masks are most effective at preventing someone who is ill from spreading illness to others. It’s not advised as a barrier for those who want to avoid getting sick.


I recently traveled to China and now I am feeling sick. What should I do? 

If you have traveled to Wuhan or elsewhere in China in the past 14 days and now feel sick with fever, cough or have difficulty breathing, you should do the following: 

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. 

  • Stay home. Except for seeking medical care, avoid contact with others. 

  • Do not travel while sick.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If no soap and water are available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


Should I be worried about products imported from China?

There is no evidence that you can become infected with the new disease from a product imported from China. It appears to be related to coronaviruses like Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which do not survive long on surfaces. Instead, they are usually spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.


Are passengers being screened at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport?

CDC and Customs and Border Protection at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (and 19 other U.S. airports) are monitoring for travelers with symptoms compatible with the infection and a travel connection with China. They will refer them to CDC staff for evaluation at the quarantine station located at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Travelers from China will be given CDC’s Travel Health Notice, with information on what to do if they get sick with certain symptoms within 14 days. 


Where can I find out more information?

For more information, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov. You can also visit the state DOH website at health.hawaii.gov.


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman



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