Hawaii Expecting Kits For Coronavirus Tests After First Shipment Proved Defective

Feb 18, 2020

Hawaii is scheduled to receive new coronavirus test kits this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after an initial shipment didn't work as expected.

Last week, states including Hawaii received kits that were defective, prompting a notice from CDC that the equipment should not be used.

State officials have had to send samples taken in suspected cases of the rapidly spreading virus to the CDC in Atlanta, delaying the results for as much as a week or longer. The kits were aimed at speeding up results by allowing local testing.

There are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, the health department said in its latest update.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park explained that the states verify the accuracy of the test kits by using samples provided by the CDC that should show either positive or negative results.

“We call those negative and positive controls. And there's a set of them that you have to go through as part of a verification process,” she said.

“If any one of them gave you a different result than what's supposed to be, then your verification process is ended right there and you cannot start running. And that's what happened. One of the control sets, a negative control set, gave off positives for several public health labs in the nation that had received it before we did.”

She said the CDC discovered the problem in the control samples it sent with the kits, and notified the states.

Hawaii was advised to stop and wait for the CDC to send reformulated kits.

Park said the tests when normally developed is a lengthy process. They are supposed to meet strict requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, the CDC was able to obtain an emergency use authorization, which allows unapproved medical products to be used to diagnose life-threatening conditions.

Gov. David Ige said at a press conference last week that he spoke with the CDC about Hawaii’s unique challenge being far from the Mainland.

“Other states were surprised to learn that for us -- because we have to ship it back to Georgia and back -- that it would take a week or more to get results,” he said.

“[The CDC] is definitely focused on getting us valid test kits as soon as possible. They recognize that ... the capability to test in-state greatly accelerates our ability to identify the virus and then take appropriate action.”

Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is one of 14 in the nation that is accepting U.S. citizens traveling home from China. Those returning from China are monitored by the state health department.

As of Sunday, the state health department reported that 53 people who had visited China were self-monitoring and voluntarily staying at home. One Hawaii resident remains in quarantine at Pearl Harbor without sympoms after traveling in Hubei Province where the outbreak originated.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson has advised healthcare providers to be extra cautious when dealing with patients who show flu-like symptoms. 

The department is continuing to follow-up on the case of a Japanese couple who visited Maui and Oahu in late January and early February. They returned home to Nagoya on Feb. 6 or Feb. 7, were diagnosed with coronavirus and were hospitalized.

At least two Hawaii residents among the handful who were aboard the Diamond Princess, the quarantined cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, have been evacuated to miitary bases in the U.S. They are being quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.

Two Hawaii residents who were aboard the ship and came down with the virus are hospitalized in Japan.