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WHAT? State of Hawaii just told a potentially coronavirus-infected man to continue interacting with the public like normal

One of the biggest problems in containing the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is that the incubation period is lengthy — roughly two weeks, according to health experts.

But once it is contracted, people are highly contagious and, in fact, may very well be so before showing any symptoms.

With that in mind, it seems more than outrageous that health officials in Hawaii would completely dismiss those concerns after a Japanese man and his wife who visited the state were diagnosed with the virus after returning to his home country.

According to The New York Times in a story filed from Honolulu, a reporter appears to have tracked down some of the contacts made by the unnamed infected Japanese couple during their visit, but health officials in the state, notably, don’t yet know — or haven’t said — what the source of the infection is.

The Times report begins with the story of Chantelle Pajarillo, a Hawaiian woman who was spending an extended weekend at the famous Waikiki Beach resort. While there, she saw a local news report stating that the infected man may have also stayed at the resort.

The report prompted Pajarillo to contact the hotel staff and immediately request some antiseptic wipes, which she says she used to immediately begin “wiping down everything.”

“I wiped down everything I knew they would touch: the sliding door, the refrigerator, countertops and the bathroom,” Pajarillo told the Times reporter on Saturday while walking back to the pool at the Grand Waikikian,with a stack of towels. “I’m a germaphobe myself and I have three little kids so I want to make sure I take every precaution.”

It should be noted that, as of the original report, neither Hawaii health officials or their counterparts in Japan had a clue where the man might have contracted the virus. The most likely option, they believe, is that he picked it up somewhere along the way while he traveled to the islands from his home. (Related: Coronavirus breaking news: Infected passengers flew Delta and Hawaiian Airlines out of Honolulu.)

‘I have it in writing’

State health officials worked for a few days attempting to find anyone who could have been in contact with the Japanese man and his wife who also visited the island of Maui. Officials said that the couple was not diagnosed with Wuhan coronavirus until they returned to Japan.

That said, the Times reporter did manage to find John Fukiwara, a local resident who said he believes the Japanese man is a friend of his whom he would not identify by name. The man recently visited the island and had coffee with Fukiwara before they exchanged gifts of chocolate.

Fukiwara then contacted a local newspaper and then reached out to state health officials, with whom he offered to self-quarantine. But amazingly, state health officials told him to simply go about his normal day-to-day routine and to be sure to report any symptoms.

What an amazingly irresponsible thing for the state’s health officials to do, as the virus continues to spread throughout China and kill. 

Even if it turns out the Japanese man in question isn’t the same one who was infected, like his wife, wouldn’t it be better to be safe rather than sorry?

The Times reported: 

In an email he shared with The New York Times, a disease intervention specialist with the Hawaii Department of Health did not confirm that Mr. Fujiwara’s friend was the one who had been diagnosed, but told him that he should contact the department if he had any symptoms before Tuesday, which would be two weeks after he saw his friend — the maximum incubation period for coronavirus.

“I plan to go to dinner with my girlfriend tonight, unless things change, specifically because I have it in writing from the State of Hawaii Department of Health to continue my daily routine,” he told the Times.

And people wonder how these pandemics continue to spread.

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