LIHU‘E — Two individuals who are currently in an isolation facility on Kaua‘i had been on-island for three days before the first was tested for COVID-19 and had been staying on Maui since March 2, according to state officials.
The visiting couple arrived on Maui on a United Airlines direct flight from the Mainland, stayed at a hotel in Lahaina, and started feeling symptoms shortly after arrival on Maui. Both were seen at urgent care facilities on Maui, where one tested negative for flu in a rapid-flu test.
The couple flew to Kaua‘i on March 8 on Hawaiian Airlines flight 149 and stayed at the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort &Beach Club from March 9 until they were placed in a county isolation facility on Friday, according to state officials who briefed the public on the status of the two cases of COVID-19 confirmed positive on Friday.
They were tested for the coronavirus at Wilcox Medical Center on March 12 after disclosing to health-care providers they had been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 on the mainland prior to travel.
Officials did not provide further information regarding the mainland location where the couple was exposed or which state the couple is from.
In a Saturday press conference, Gov. David Ige said the couple is being interviewed and officials are tracking their itinerary to “find out the places they went the tour they went on.” State Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office’s Dr. Janet Berreman confirmed that information Saturday, saying her department has been going over the couple’s activity on Kaua‘i and is contacting people who could have been exposed to the virus.
Berreman said they think most of the contact the couple had with the community was casual contact versus close contact — defined as face-to-face contact with three feet of space or less between people for 10 minutes or longer. Those who have had close contact with the couple are being alerted as information becomes available, officials said.
Saturday morning, Ige said three of those people were Kaua‘i health-care workers who weren’t wearing proper personal protective equipment when they treated the couple.
Hawai‘i Pacific Health Executive Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Dr. Melinda Ashton clarified later Saturday afternoon that just one health-care worker on Kaua‘i — at the HPH Urgent Care Clinic — was not wearing PPE when in contact with the two Kaua‘i visitors who have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.
“At the time of their visit to Kaua‘i Urgent Care, the two Kaua‘i visitors were not aware they had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and did not meet any other CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or Hawai‘i Department of Health criteria for healthcare workers to wear PPE during their interactions. The health-care worker is now in self-quarantine,” Ashton said.
Wilcox Medical Center has the capabilities and is prepared to care for patients with COVID-19, Ashton confirmed. The center’s health-care providers and staff go through training on a regular basis related to reducing infection risks that includes proper use of PPE and protocols for isolating and caring for patients who present symptoms or test positive for these types of conditions.
When patients present with potential COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath) and any reason for being concerned about COVID-19, Ashton said staff will immediately begin the appropriate infection-control protocols, including isolating the patient and putting on the appropriate PPE.
“We continue to work closely with the Hawai‘i Department of Health and are taking all necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our patients, staff and community,” Ashton said.
HPH spokeswoman Kristin Bonilla also pointed out a change in hours for the drive-through sampling at Wilcox today. Wilcox Medical Center will be opening its drive-up specimen collection site today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Requirements are that people will need a physician order for the test, along with a photo ID and insurance card.
The Kaua‘i Marriott Resort &Beach Club is working with Berreman and the Kaua‘i District Health office on next steps, as well as monitoring alerts from the World Health Organization and CDC.
“We are aware of the news being reported,” said Paul Toner, general manager of the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort &Beach Club in Lihu‘e, in a statement to TGI Saturday. “We take hotel hygiene and cleanliness very seriously. We are taking steps to ensure the safety of our guests and associates, and we would always take guidance from public-health authorities as situations warrant. The wellbeing of our guests and associates is of paramount importance.”
Kaua‘i state Rep. James Tokioka and Senate President Ron Kouchi were present at the press conference, as were DOH officials.
All officials emphasized individual responsibility on Saturday: staying home if you’re sick, proper hand-washing, and following DOH and CDC guidelines.
Berreman also reminds the public that the number of health-care professionals on Kaua‘i is limited, and those feeling sick should call ahead and discuss their symptoms before visiting their health-care providers.
Wilcox Medical Center is doing drive-through sample collection for the COVID-19 test, which is being paid for by the state for those who have a physician’s recommendation.
Those who test positive for COVID-19, according to CDC, should remain under home isolation until the risk of transmitting the virus is thought to be low. Continuous contact with the individual’s health-care provider is crucial to that process.
If you’re feeling sick, CDC says to stay home, except to get medical care and to separate yourself from people and animals in your home.
“Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” CDC recommendations state.
Saturday, Mayor Derek Kawakami said Kaua‘i County’s team has been getting ready for the day when a COVID-19 case appears on Kaua‘i.
“It was only a matter of time,” he said, highlighting the CDC’s social- distancing and hygiene recommendations and suggesting a shaka instead of the traditional handshake or kiss-and-hug greeting.
“This is about ‘ohana and community,” he said. “Now is the time to help one another. Do your part.”