Four Hawaii residents returned home to the islands after their cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, docked in Cambodia last Thursday. The cruise ship had been turned away from several ports in Asia before being accepted at the Cambodia port. At least one of the ship’s passengers has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not consider the four Hawaii residents to be at high risk for the illness. The Hawaii Department of Health told the residents, who are self-monitoring at home, to notify officials if they develop symptoms.
“We don’t anticipate that they were exposed to anyone who might have had the virus,” state Health Director Bruce Anderson said. “The passenger that was identified as having been infected with COVID-19 developed symptoms after leaving the ship so, again, probably wasn’t passing the virus onto others on the ship.”
The CDC said in a statement that people are most contagious when they are symptomatic, but “some spread may happen before people show symptoms."
"There have been a few reports of this with the new coronavirus and it is compatible with what we know about other respiratory viruses including seasonal flu."
Anderson said a handful of Hawaii residents who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Japan have now returned to the U.S. and are at quarantine sites in Texas and California.
However, the Hawaii man and a woman who were previously diagnosed with the virus remain in Japan.
While the man was hospitalized, the woman had stayed on the cruise ship. However, Lt. Gov. Josh Green explained she may be receiving care soon.
“I do believe I got her into care,” Green said. “They’re prepping her and taking her to the same hospital her husband is in.” The lieutenant governor later texted Wednesday night that the woman had been moved to her husband's hospital.
In a statement, the state health department gave updates on the two Japanese tourists who were diagnosed with coronavirus after visiting Hawaii in late January and early February. While the man still remains hospitalized in Japan, the woman who accompanied him has recovered.
The state is still waiting to receive coronavirus testing kits from the CDC after other states discovered that some of the kits did not work.
Anderson expects to receive the kits in early to mid-March, but he has notified the CDC that he would like Hawaii to be a beta-testing site for the kits, which he estimates would allow Hawaii to receive the kits a week earlier.
“We would do confirmation testing even through that period . . . we would analyze samples to make sure that their test is working properly before they distribute the test kits to all 50 states again,” he said.
However, the CDC has not yet selected which states would be beta-testing centers.
States are currently sending samples to be tested in Atlanta, Georgia, which for Hawaii can mean more than a week for results to be returned.
The state health department said there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hawaii. At latest count, 41 people are self-monitoring at home following travel to China.