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Coronavirus testing kits to remain on Oahu

If Valley Isle cases arise, samples to be sent to state lab

Since the long-awaited arrival of coronavirus test kits in Hawaii, Maui Memorial Medical Center has not yet taken any samples to test for the virus, as no patient has exhibited the risk factors, a hospital spokesperson said Monday.

Lisa Paulson, director of strategic communications for Maui Health System, which manages the island’s only acute-care hospital, said that the state Department of Health’s State Laboratories Division on Oahu will do the actual testing and that the DOH is also the one with the testing kits.

The state District Health Offices, including on Maui, do not have the capabilities to test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center on Monday afternoon.

The Health Department’s Disease Outbreak Control Division website, which outlines steps for health care providers if a patient displays symptoms of COVID-19 infection, notes that samples will be taken from the patient and sent to the State Laboratories Division for analysis.

Testing on Oahu will identify a presumptive positive case, pending confirmatory testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

State DOH officials said last week that they should be ready to test for the virus locally this week after initially being sent defective test kits from the CDC.

As of Monday afternoon, there were still no cases of COVID-19 identified in the state, according to the state DOH. However, the lack of test kits was a point of concern, especially after health officials announced that a couple from Japan who spent time on both Maui and Oahu in late January and early February had later tested positive for the virus upon returning home.

Since the arrival of the kits, two people have been tested but with negative results, the state said. Currently, there are 91 people in the state who are self-monitoring — meaning they traveled to China but outside the area where the outbreak originated — with public health supervision. One was on Maui, 83 were on Oahu, five were on Hawaii island and two on Kauai.

While health, transportation and customs officials have been monitoring for travelers who passed through Hubei province or any other parts of China, concerns have grown since a Washington state man in his 50s — without a history of travel or contact with a known coronavirus case — became the first person in the U.S. to die of COVID-19. Washington media reported six deaths in the state as of late Monday night, as other states also announced cases of people who also did not meet the criteria of international travel and contact with a known case.

Currently, the CDC does not have a COVID-19 travel health notice for the Continental U.S.

China, Iran, South Korea and Italy all have a Level 3 travel health notice, meaning that the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to these areas, and entries of foreign nationals from these destinations have been suspended.

The CDC recommends that older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions consider postponing travel to Japan, which has a Level 2 health notice.

And, travelers should practice usual precautions when traveling to Hong Kong, which has a Level 1 travel health notice.

According to the World Health Organization, there were over 89,000 confirmed cases globally as of Monday, with 80,151 confirmed in China and 2,943 deaths. Outside of China, there have been 7,169 confirmed cases in about 70 countries and over 153 deaths.

When asked what measures the hospital had in place for a possible outbreak, Paulson reiterated comments she made last month that the hospital would follow internal protocols as well as the state DOH’s Pandemic Response Plan.

All available rooms would be utilized should they be needed and no patient will be turned away, Paulson added. No specific treatment for COVID-19 is currently available, so medical care would concentrate on symptom management. Infection prevention and control activities at Maui Health facilities are guided by the CDC, she said.

Maui Health System oversees Maui Memorial as well as Kula and Lanai Community hospitals.

Paulson also directed questions to Maui Health System’s website at www.mauihealth.org/health-resources/covid-19/.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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