WASHINGTON — Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) released the following statement on Feb. 26 in response to the growing threat to Hawaii posed by the coronavirus known as COVID-19:
“The first responsibility of our leaders should be to protect the health, safety, and security of the people of Hawaii and our country. This is why we’ve temporarily suspended flights from China, which has been very helpful. But, more is needed in order to protect the people of Hawaii.
“In order to protect the people of Hawaii, we must now suspend flights from Japan and South Korea, where the virus has been spreading. It is irresponsible for our leaders to endanger the health and well-being of Hawaii’s people by continuing to allow travel from Japan and South Korea.
“I know there will be economic hardship, but it will pale in comparison to the cost in lives and economic damage to Hawaii and our country if we don’t suspend travel from these countries.
“Unfortunately, our leaders are depending upon the same procedures they used with the SARS epidemic — but that will not be sufficient. Because the coronavirus spreads much more easily than SARS. Once it enters Hawaii, it will spread like wildfire and then it will be too late.
“This suspension should last until tests are readily available either in the country of departure or for passengers that are arriving in the United States. The tests need to be done on the spot, preferably before they get on the plane. If they are cleared by the test, then they can come. If not, then they get turned back.
“There is a high likelihood that such tests will be available within 30 days — possibly a little sooner, possibly a little later. The way that it is being done now is extremely unscientific and unreliable because patients can be asymptomatic yet still carry the disease and be contagious.
“We need to take action now to protect the people of Hawaii and our nation.”