State monitors arrivals from high-risk regions, but not as many as you might think

State monitors arrivals from high-risk regions, but not as many as you might think
Daniel K. Inouye International Airpot (Source: HNN File Image)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s Department of Health says it’s monitoring arrivals from high-risk regions, but its not as many places as you might think.

During a news conference Friday afternoon, state Health Director Bruce Anderson confirmed the agency is keeping tabs on people coming in from two countries: China and Iran.

“They’re actually required to spend 14 days in self-quarantine,” Anderson said. “We have public health oversight which includes calling them. And we do check-in on there whereabouts.”

But hundreds more travelers are coming in almost every day from other high-risk areas and they aren’t being tracked at all.

From March 1 through March 12, 1,788 travelers arrived in Hawaii from South Korea. Airline logs show hundreds of people landing in Honolulu several times a week.

The country is grappling with what the CDC calls a “widespread sustained outbreak” of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Despite a Level 3 advisory, which states travelers must stay home 14 days after leaving South Korea, Hawaii’s health officials say no one’s checking to make sure they’re in self-quarantine.

“It’s basically on an honor system,” Anderson said. “They are being provided information as they come in and asked to monitor their own health. And of course call if they have symptoms or illness.”

Anderson says virtually all international travelers are greeted with that same information and so far no one’s called to report any symptoms. But he added that’s likely to change.

“We’re just at the beginning of this situation,” he said. “It’s like a tsunami coming towards us and we’re trying to get ready as fast as we can.”

Infectious Disease Expert Dr. DeWolfe Miller says instead of border control, the focus now should be more on pharmaceuticals.

“What we really need of course is a vaccine,” he said.

Miller admits that’s is still a long way off but believes drug companies can likely create an anti-viral medication much more quickly.

“If we have a really strong leadership in our country it could be just months,” said Miller. “They’ll put the resources they’ll need to get it and I’m hoping they will do that.”

On Friday, President Trump said if an outbreak “gets too hot” in US states like Washington and California, he will consider domestic travel restrictions.

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