LATEST: Schools take precautionary measures amid global coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Mar. 4, 2020 at 6:38 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus response in Hawaii. Officials stress that there have been no confirmed cases in the islands.

  • The death toll from the coronavirus in the US continues to rise amid growing urgency to contain the outbreak. Scores more are undergoing testing.
  • The World Health Organization says the death rate of the coronavirus is believed to be 3.4% ― based on the statistics so far available. That’s a higher death rate than the flu
  • Several large events slated for Honolulu have been canceled or postponed. Among them: A Mariah Carey concert and the Honolulu Festival.

The state Department of Education says it’s taking precautionary measures amid the coronavirus outbreak globally.

In a letter home to parents Tuesday, officials said maintenance staff are following “specific cleaning procedures” to clean common areas and classrooms.

School nurses and health assistants are also being trained on what to do when a student becomes sick.

Meanwhile, all school-related travel and programs to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran are suspended. That includes summer school and “non-essential visitors" to campuses in Hawaii.

The University of Hawaii is also reminding students and staff that travel to and from Hawaii might be restricted at any time.

The university has also postponed a 30th anniversary event for its environmental law program that was scheduled this weekend.

State lawmakers are advancing a coronavirus bill. The House measure provides funds to support the Department of Health’s response to the virus.

Last week, a Senate committee approved $10.5 million in emergency spending to respond to the outbreak.

Maui County officials are also installing additional sanitizers at the Maui County Building.

Mayor Michael Victorino is urging the public to remain calm.

He’s asking people not to hoard but to have enough supplies in case they become sick and need to stay home.

Posters are also going up to raise health awareness.


Six people in the islands have been tested for the novel coronavirus and all the test have come back negative, officials said Tuesday.

The announcement Tuesday came after state officials led a media tour of the state Laboratory in Pearl City, which is conducting the testing. There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hawaii.

“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Gov. David Ige said.

Officials said the results of the Hawaii testing will need to be confirmed by the CDC.

Concerns about the coronavirus is already taking a toll on Hawaii’s tourism industry.

In the last 48 hours, three large events slated for Honolulu have been canceled or postponed.

On Tuesday, organizers announced the 26th annual Honolulu Festival would be canceled. The event was to be held Friday through Saturday, and typically draws thousands from across Asia.

Hiroyuki “Keith” Kitagawa, president of the Honolulu Festival Foundation, said in a statement:

"There are currently no cases of the coronavirus in Hawaii. However, considering the precautions and recommendations being made by government health officials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, canceling this year’s Honolulu Festival is the responsible action to help protect the public’s safety.”

Organizers of FESTPAC have also postponed their event, which was to bring as many as 90,000 people to Honolulu in June.

There’s no new date for the event, but organizers say they’re hoping for later this year.

The cancellations and postponements are more bad news for the tourism industry, which is bracing for wilder fallout from the coronavirus that could last for months.

And Mariah Carey announced Tuesday a concert set for this month would be pushed to November.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is repeating her call that flights from Japan and South Korea to the United States be suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The US government hasn’t gone that far, but has urged Americans not to travel to the worst-hit areas of South Korea.

Gabbard said screening efforts at airports aren’t going far enough.

“At the very lease, every passenger should be tested/cleared before boarding,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said travelers should postpone their Hawaii plans if they’re feeling ill.

“I think that we as a state welcome all travelers that are healthy,” Green said.

“We’re not going to be Draconian in our travel restrictions, but we are going to put people’s health and safety first here in Hawaii.”

He also said that Hawaii residents should consider postponing non-essential travel to Asia.

State Rep. Scott Saiki says the state must take its reliance on tourism into account while preparing for the financial impacts of the global coronavirus outbreak.

“Hawaii will be hit hard because of our proximity to Asia and our fragile economy that relies heavily on tourism and imports,” said Saiki, the speaker of the state House.

Saiki noted that the state’s Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism reported a February decline in international visitors to Hawaii of more than seven percent.

The state is also expected to lose more than $20 million in visitor spending because of the temporary suspension of flights to South Korea.

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