Hawaii expects to be able to test for new virus next week

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s epidemiologist said Thursday the state should be ready to begin testing for the coronavirus next week.

State officials has been eager to test for COVID-19 for weeks but haven’t been able to because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent defective test kits.

Dr. Sarah Park said the CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories have worked out a solution to allow labs in Hawaii and elsewhere to begin testing with components of those kits that aren’t defective.

“We can start the verification process now. It’s hopeful we’ll have that testing capacity as early as next week,” Park said on a session of Facebook Live with Gov. David Ige.

Ige told viewers he asked lawmakers to appropriate $7.2 million to respond to the virus over the next four months. The state Senate Ways and Means Committee was scheduled to discuss the funding at a hearing Thursday.

“That just gives us the resources so that we can be prepared,” Ige said.

The funding bill calls for $2.5 million to be spent on disease outbreak surveillance and response, including specimen collection kits and personal protective equipment for disease investigators.

Another $1.3 million would go toward laboratory testing, equipment and supplies and four new Department of Health staff positions.

Additional funds would support public education and awareness campaigns, and quarantine and self-monitoring for non-residents and homeless individuals.

The global count of those sickened by the virus hovered Thursday around 82,000, with 433 new cases reported in China and another 505 in South Korea. A woman in California was believed to be the first person in the U.S. to contract the disease with no known connection to travel abroad or other known causes.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

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