Aiming for answers, community members meet with state leaders over COVID-19 concerns

Updated: Mar. 12, 2020 at 10:02 AM HST
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HAWAII KAI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s top government officials met with residents Wednesday to ease their fears about the coronavirus.

One of those meetings was a town hall Wednesday night at Hahaione Elementary School in Hawaii Kai.

People came to the meeting armed with questions about whether masks work, if there are different strains of COVID-19, and if it’s possible to have the flu and coronavirus at the same time.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who’s also a physician, told the gathering that there appears to be a stronger strain and a weaker strain of the coronavirus.

He also said you can’t have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

As for the masks?

“Masks should be reserved for only when you’re sick, and also reserved our health care workers so that we can still treat you if you do get ill,” said Dr. Darragh O’Carroll, an emergency room doctor from Kuakini Medical Center.

He was at the meeting as a community member, but was acknowledged by Green as one of those on the front line against the virus.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that he, for the next 50 patients that he sees, doesn’t ― if God forbid had someone sneeze in his face or whatever ― he didn’t contract coronavirus and then give it to the next 50 people,” said Green.

Green also demonstrated how close you would have to be to be exposed to the virus, using state Rep. Gene Ward, the area’s lawmaker and one of the hosts of the meeting, as a model.

“After a few minutes, close proximity of 6 feet ― if it’s closer than that and he’s sick, that’s the risk," said Green, standing close to Ward.

“It seems like it’s not as easy to catch as we thought,” said area resident Iris Iwana. “You know, when it was going crazy in China, it seemed like if you were next to the person you could pass it. Sound like you have to be a little more than next to someone.”

Iwana herself took precautions. She took a trip to China and Hong Kong in January and self-quarantined on her return.

“We were so much in the midst of that, and we felt we don’t to spread anything,” she said. “I don’t want to be the person that spread it in Hawaii.”

Gov. David Ige and other lawmakers were at another town hall in Pearl City.

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