HONOLULU – Chantelle Pajarillo had settled into a resort on Hawaii’s famous Waikiki Beach, hoping for a peaceful long weekend away from work and school with her family.
The peaceful part came to an end as soon as she turned on the television set Friday night and learned that a Japanese couple who had been staying at the same hotel had fallen ill with the coronavirus.
Pajarillo, who lives 25 miles away on another part of the island of Oahu, did not know what room the couple had stayed in, but it did not matter: She requested a stash of disinfecting wipes and started cleaning every surface she could find.
“I wiped down everything I knew they would touch: the sliding door, the refrigerator, countertops and the bathroom,” Pajarillo said Saturday as she walked back to the pool at the Grand Waikikian. “I’m a germaphobe myself and I have three little kids so I want to make sure I take every precaution.”
Hawaii health officials were working swiftly over the weekend to find anyone who might have had contact with the Japanese couple, who had also visited the island of Maui.
Health authorities said the couple, both in their 60s, was not diagnosed until they returned to Japan, but the husband began showing symptoms while still staying in one of Hawaii’s most popular tourist neighborhoods.
More than 9 million people visit Hawaii each year, 1 in 3 of whom are international tourists. Health officials said that there was little chance that the infection had spread, but that they would continue to search for anyone who had prolonged contact with the couple.
There had been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state before the two tourists were diagnosed in Japan.
In the U.S., 15 people have been confirmed with the virus.