In new cases, state finds evidence of coronavirus community transmission

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 6:55 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 26, 2020 at 6:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state says at least three of the 11 new coronavirus cases announced Thursday don’t have a link to recent travel, indicating a widening transmission of the virus in the community.

The news comes as a mandatory, first-in-the-nation quarantine goes into effect for all incoming travelers and returning residents. The state is also under a sweeping statewide stay-at-home order.

“We must try to stop visitors from coming to Hawaii in order to stop the spread,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

He also announced that the state is formulating plans to convert a large public venue, such as the Hawaii Convention Center, into a makeshift medical facility if Hawaii sees a surge in coronavirus cases.

There’s no immediate timeline for the facility and officials stressed there’s also no immediate need for it. The state is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to survey sites on Oahu and Maui.

Officials could not immediately say where the three new cases of apparent community spread are located. Previously, Hawaii has had at least two cases with no link to recent travel.

“It’s the first sign that we’ve seen that there is some localized community spread,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson, adding that community transmission does not appear to be “widespread.”

And state officials are desperately hoping that the quarantine and stay-at-home order keep it that way.

Taken together, the mandates have essentially brought tourism in Hawaii to a standstill and prompted the closure of hundreds of businesses, hotels and attractions.

Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said multiple flights that arrived in Hawaii on Thursday from the mainland or international airports had just one passenger on board.

And some had none.

“The passenger levels are very low,” Sakahara said, adding that the largest flight to the islands had 54 people on it — about half of whom were on layovers in Hawaii and did not leave airports.

The new cases announced Thursday bring the statewide total to 106. Here’s the county-by-county breakdown:

  • Oahu: 77 (8 new)
  • Maui: 14 (1 new)
  • Big Island: 5
  • Kauai: 5
  • Unknown: 3
  • Diagnosed out of state: 2 (2 new)

Officials also said Thursday that 5,034 tests for coronavirus have been conducted so far in Hawaii. Of those, some 387 were conducted at the state Laboratory.

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There have been no confirmed coronavirus-linked deaths in the islands, but at least seven people have required hospitalization. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said that at least 31 people have also been admitted to hospitals for coronavirus screening, but they have not yet tested positive.

This story will be updated.

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