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Cruise ship visiting Maui linked to virus

Two on previous voyage test positive; 50 continue to Hawaii

The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge on Feb. 11 as it arrives from Hawaii to San Francisco. California’s first coronavirus fatality is an elderly patient who apparently contracted the illness on a cruise, authorities said Wednesday. San Francisco Chronicle / Scott Strazzante photo via AP

More than 50 passengers aboard a cruise ship that anchored off Lahaina on Friday were possibly exposed to the novel coronavirus on a previous voyage.

Two passengers, who disembarked the Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco after a California-to-Mexico voyage, tested positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19. There were more than 50 passengers onboard the ship who continued from San Francisco to Hawaii.

In response to questions from The Maui News, state officials said they cannot confirm at this time whether the two Grand Princess cruise ship passengers, who tested positive for COVID-19, interacted with 54 passengers who stopped at Lahaina and other Hawaii ports.

“We cannot confirm with certainty either way at this time,” the state COVID-19 joint information center said Wednesday.

Still, state Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the Grand Princess cruise ship visit did not pose a risk for Hawaii.

He, along with Gov. David Ige and Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, said that Hawaii has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 as they detailed the cruise ship timeline during a news conference Wednesday on Oahu.

Meanwhile, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino issued a Public Health Emergency Proclamation on Wednesday as a response to recent events surrounding COVID-19. The proclamation coincides with similar ones issued Wednesday by the Governor’s Office and the counties of Honolulu and Kauai. Hawaii County issued a proclamation Friday.

Maui’s COVID-19-related proclamation gives the county and other state partners the ability to take action to suspend any county law that could impede or be a detriment to health, safety and welfare of the public, an announcement said.

The public health emergency proclamation also allows the county to use public property for emergency management and includes the ability to take proactive measures to promote public health and remove hardship or obstructions to public health.

The county’s proclamation will terminate after 60 days or if Victorino signs off on a Termination of Emergency document.

The two Grand Princess passengers with COVID-19, one of whom has since died, disembarked in San Francisco on Feb. 21, before the current voyage to Hawaii, according to the state COVID-19 joint information center. They were on the San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21, which did not stop in Hawaii.

The same ship, though, was used for a San Francisco-to-Hawaii cruise from Feb. 26 to Saturday; it visited each of the four main Hawaiian Islands.

The Grand Princess cruise ship anchored off Lahaina at 7 a.m. Friday and departed at 6 p.m., according to the state Department of Transportation Harbors Division web-based vessel scheduling system.

Responding to questions from The Maui News, the state COVID-19 joint information center did not disclose whether the passengers or crew disembarked while anchored in Lahaina and deferred questions to the state Department of Transportation.

State DOT did not respond to questions by Wednesday evening.

During the news conference, Park said it is routine for a vessel to notify the port of any illnesses, and “we did not receive reports of illness among those travelers.”

One crew member reported illness and tested negative for COVID-19 on the Big Island, she said.

Currently en route to San Francisco, the Grand Princess cruise ship has a “flu cluster,” Park said, where about 20 people came down with symptoms that are “most likely the flu.” Three were confirmed to be the flu; others have since recovered; and one person is quarantined, she said.

The person who is quarantined has tested negative for the flu and is “quite ill,” she said.

“We’re monitoring the situation very closely,” Park said, adding that the state is collaborating with colleagues in California and at the CDC.

Health Department officials also confirmed that the one Maui person, who was tested for the virus and was found to be negative, was not related to the ship’s visit to Maui.

Other COVID-19 updates include:

• Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said there is a comprehensive plan in place for inmates, including those at Maui Community Correctional Center, amid COVID-19 concerns. No inmates have exhibited signs or symptoms of the illness, she said. “Our Health Care Division has gone to great lengths to make sure a comprehensive plan is in place to safeguard the health of all inmates and staff in our facilities,” she said Wednesday.

• The state Health Department has alerted health care providers around Hawaii about updated CDC criteria to evaluate people under investigation for COVID-19. The new protocol expands criteria for testing to a wider group of patients with symptoms. Doctors are advised to prioritize testing for hospitalized patients in serious condition, and they must receive authorization for testing, which is free to the patient.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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