Hawaii officials Tuesday toured a Pearl Harbor quarantine site provided by the Navy to monitor the dwindling number of U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Hubei province in China, which is the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak.
State Health Director Bruce Anderson said he’s hopeful that six or fewer individuals — civilians or perhaps military members or dependents — will need to be quarantined for two weeks at the undisclosed location on the military base.
“These are people who have been to Hubei within the last 14 days. That’s it. That’s really the only people that will likely be there,” Anderson said after the visit.
“Remember, we’re not dealing with sick people in most cases,” he said. “They are going to be well. We just need to ensure they stay well, so they need food and fresh clothing and sheets and towels.”
Anderson, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, head of the state Department of Defense, visited the secure site.
“They are pretty much ready to take people, if and when that is needed,” Anderson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“I’m very pleased the Navy stepped forward to make that facility available to us,” Anderson said, adding the provision came on short notice.
No one in Hawaii had met the criteria for quarantine, he said. All flights from China to the United States were funneled through 11 airports, Daniel K. Inouye International among them. As of Sunday, direct flights to Hawaii were stopped.
“Everyone’s been scrambling to try to find a good place” for a quarantine facility, Anderson said. “In some cities or some places, they are putting people up in hotel rooms — which we felt was a very bad idea. There you are exposing the public, potentially.”
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith recently restricted all Defense Department travel to the People’s Republic of China and required that all defense personnel in China on temporary duty and leave depart mainland China immediately.
Americans who have been to areas of China other than Hubei in the past 14 days are being allowed to travel to their home or final destination where they will need to “self-quarantine” and be monitored by health officials. But virtually every international flight now is being screened, Anderson said.
Ten U.S. citizens who were in China came through Honolulu on Monday, in most cases heading somewhere else. “There’s no requirement to hold those individuals,” Anderson said. “They can go home, basically.”
The health director added that “the order is very limited right now. You never know what’s going to happen with this, if, for example, the U.S. government decides … that they want to restrict travel from Japan, let’s say.”
“Everyone’s working closely together. We’re on conference calls several times a day” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies. “So far, so good here,” he said.
But that likely will change, and Anderson reiterated that Hawaii will “probably get a case sooner or later.”
“We’re at the beginning of what is likely to be a much larger problem,” he said. “I’m sure that we’re going to see many, many more cases occurring around the world.”
“It’s not going to end soon,” Anderson said. “This is going to be a disease that we’ll need to continue to address over the next few months at the very least, and maybe longer.”
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