Oahu man who traveled on cruise ship is state’s first case of coronavirus

Updated: Mar. 7, 2020 at 4:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An Oahu resident who traveled on a cruise ship in early February that’s been linked to more than two dozen cases of coronavirus has tested positive for the virus after returning to the islands and falling ill, the governor announced Friday.

The man is now in quarantine at home and is “doing well,” officials said.

Gov. David Ige said the resident traveled on the Grand Princess during a cruise that started Feb. 11, returned home to the islands by air, and then subsequently sought medical care after getting sick.

State officials say the person has had little to no contact with anyone else since exhibiting symptoms, but was out in the community while still asymptomatic.

The man has been identified as a Kaiser Permanente patient.

In a statement, Kaiser said health care workers are monitoring the patient while in self-isolation.

[READ MORE: For more coronavirus coverage, click here.]

“We are in touch with and monitoring the patient,” Kaiser said, adding that the man is being treated on an outpatient basis.

“Staff at our facilities regularly drill using various disaster scenarios, including detection of infectious disease. Staff are following CDC protocols and we are confident we can safely handle and treat patients who present with this illness.”

The state Department of Health wouldn’t explain how the patient is getting food, supplies or any medication or if he lives with anyone.

The patient was tested Thursday for coronavirus and the results came back Friday afternoon.

Ige said while the case is concerning, authorities don’t believe it increases the risk the virus is being spread in the community. That’s because of the patient’s limited contact with others since getting sick.

“This is not a case of spread in the community,” Ige said.

“We wanted to reemphasize that we believe they became infected on the cruise itself.”

But officials are also increasingly worried about a later voyage of the Grand Princess to Hawaii, in which the vessel made stops at four island ports.

At least 21 people on that sailing have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Oahu man presumably contracted the virus on that mammoth ship.

At a news conference Friday, state Health Department Director Bruce Anderson said the patient started the cruise Feb. 11 in San Francisco and got off in Mexico rather than returning to California.

Also at the news conference, Anderson said that at least 90 people are “self-monitoring” at home because of recent travel to places with a large number of coronavirus cases.

On Saturday, the Department of Health said two additional tests came back negative for the virus and now 76 people were self-monitoring across the state.

The state has the capacity to test 250 people a week, but the state Health Department says the tests need to be requested from doctors and that there is criteria, including a negative flu test.

The Grand Princess, meanwhile, remains off California while authorities try to figure out how to move the 3,500 people on the ship into quarantine.

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that of those who tested positive on the ship, 19 are crew members. He said the passengers and crew will be brought to a non-commercial port and everyone will be tested for the virus.

“The general risk to the public remains low,” Pence said, adding that the elderly are at highest risk of developing serious illness and may want to reconsider travel for the foreseeable future.

“Elderly with serious underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus," he said.

"It is a good time for any American who is elderly ... and has a serious underlying health condition to think carefully about travel.”

[Read more: Trump signs $8.3B bill to combat coronavirus; 14 deaths in US]

The testing of 46 people on the vessel was prompted by the death earlier this week of a California man who was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Authorities believe he contracted on that earlier sailing of the ship the Hawaii resident was also on.

Since the man’s death, at least 10 other people on the same voyage (including Hawaii’s first case) have tested positive for coronavirus.

After wrapping up the sailing in early February, the Grand Princess took a cruise to Hawaii.

Public health officials are working with the CDC and other government agencies to get the cruise ship’s passenger manifest and details on who disembarked in Hawaii ― and whether they’ve tested positive.

The Grand Princess made multiple port calls in Hawaii from Feb. 26 to 29. The vessel’s itinerary was:

  • Feb. 21: Departed from San Francisco
  • Feb. 26: Stopped in Nawiliwili, with a port call from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Feb. 27: Stopped in Honolulu, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Feb. 28: Stopped in Lahaina, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Feb. 29, Stopped in Hilo, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The vessel then continued onto its other planned destination before turning around to return to California early after the California man died.

The coronavirus cases linked to cruise ships prompted Lt. Gov. Josh Green on Friday to call for a 60-day pause in cruise ship travel to the United States. It’s a call only the federal government can make.

“Cruise ships ... are essentially becoming the de facto cause of cases in the United States for some people and that’s not the brand they want,” he said.

Nationwide, 15 people have now died from the virus and dozens have tested positive.

This story will be updated.

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