Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Nihoa Island: Conservation crucible protects the last of a genus

Swimming in the clear, 60-foot waters in the lee of Nihoa’s western cliffs, I came across a floating leafed branch blown off the island in high winds.

It was, of course, a native plant: `aweoweo, an edible amaranth that is found on all the small islands from Nihoa to Laysan and Lisianski.

Little Nihoa rises abruptly from the sea 160 miles west of Kaua’i and Niihau. It is a fragment of an old, larger volcanic island, with steep basalt cliffs on three sides, a single sandy beach, and small forests of native loulu fan palms.

The `aweoweo is in good company. Nihoa is also home to many other native species, from the Hawaiian monk seals that sometimes litter the white sand beach by the dozens, to the native Nihoa miller birds that perch in the low bushes, to the native clumping grass, Eragrostis variabilis.

And, it turns out, on the blades of the grass, known in Hawaii as kawelu, there is an exceedingly rare tiny snail found only on this little island. The snail has been known to science for a century, but has only now been given a name.

Endodonta christenseni, photo by David Sischo

It is believed to be the last survivor of the 11 species of Endodonta snails of the Hawaiian Islands.

The story of the Nihoa snail was published in the October 15 issue of the Bishop Museum Occasional Papers, under the title, “The last known Endodonta species? Endodonta christenseni sp. nov.”  

The authors are Kenneth Hayes, John Slapcinsky, David Sischo, Jaynee Kim and Norine Yeung.

They write the snail’s story with a passion many might find unusual in scientific literature:

“Here we finally give what we think is the last Endodonta species a name and describe it using an integrative taxonomic approach. 

“In describing this last Endodonta species, our hope is to inspire increased awareness and appreciation that facilitates and motivates conservation for this species and all the other undiscovered and unnamed species threatened with extinction. 

“Unless protection of this species is implemented, it may be extinct within the next decade and we will lose the last of a lineage that existed for millions of years, and the stories it could tell.”

The snail was discovered on an expedition to Nihoa in 1923, and seen again periodically since then, including by land snail expert Carl Christensen, after whom it was named. 

There’s not much to this snail. It is described as pea-sized. Viewed from the side, it is shaped like a flying saucer. The shell has a complex pattern of striped whorls in browns and tans. And when it’s traveling, the little snail’s two antennae stretch out ahead of it.

The authors say it probably spends most of its time in the moist hearts of the grass clumps, and feeds on films of fungus that form on dead leaves. 

In a press release, co-author Yeung said that there remains hope that other rare species exist and can be protected and saved. “We need to act quickly and decisively if we are to beat the extinction clock that ticks louder with each passing day,” she said.

The paper emphasizes how critical the conservation challenge is: "Despite 15 years of sampling across more than 1000 sites throughout the Hawaiian archipelago, none of the 11 previously described species of Endodonta has been observed in our studies and it is likely that all are extinct. Endodonta christenseni sp. nov. is the only known extant member of the genus and quite possibly the last."

One ray of good news is that related land snails have been raised and increased number in captivity, and it is possible that the Nihoa snail could be re-introduced to parts of the island where it has disappeared due to human-caused wildfire during the 1800s.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Coronavirus vaccines in Hawai`i: where are we, when are they coming, who can get them?

The COVID-19 vaccine is right around the corner, and it won’t be one vaccine, but several…maybe lots.

What do we know about them?

The old school way to get immunity to a disease is to get the disease. When I was a kid and had the mumps, all the neighbors sent their kids to visit, so they could get the mumps, too. Safer to get mumps as a child than as an adult.

Another way to get immunity is to be exposed to a weakened form or inactive actual virus—which promotes the immune system to respond, but doesn’t actually make you sick. Measles and chickenpox vaccines are these. But that’s not what we’re dealing with in most COVID-19 vaccine trials likely to be used in the U.S.

If you need to stop a car from getting to its destination, you have many options: remove the driver, drain the fuel, blow out a tire, blockade the road, poke a hole in the radiator. 

There are also lots of different ways the body fights a virus, and different vaccine approaches tackle the problem in different ways. 

There are dozens of different vaccine trials underway. They go through a range of trials to prove they work and that they’re not dangerous. Some fall by the wayside due to problems of various kinds, including side-effects, not a strong enough immune response, and any of a lot of other issues.

The companies whose vaccines seem nearest approval in the United States are Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson&Johnson, not necessarily in that order. Pfizer and Moderna have already asked for emergency FDA approval for release in the United States.

Russia and China have actually released and are using vaccines, but these have not gone through all the safety and effectiveness trials that most Western medical officers recommend. 

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have actually released a vaccine in England. It is BNT162b2, which is approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom, and which they say is more than 90 percent effective and has few side effects (like fatigue or fever). One bonus is that it has high effectiveness in elderly people, who sometimes don’t respond well to vaccines.

But there are many more vaccines in the pipeline.

So how are vaccines different? (Caveat: This is hyper complicated, so these brief paragraphs are more place markers than useful descriptions.)

There are the nucleic acid vaccines, which use bits of the genetic code of the virus (but not the actual virus) to train your immune system to recognize and fight the virus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use this technology. 

Viral vectored vaccines use a harmless virus to ferry a fragment of the COVID genetic material to the immune system, so it can recognize and fight the virus if you’re exposed.  The AstraZeneca/University of Oxford and Johnson&Johnson vaccines use this technology. 

Protein subunit vaccines introduce isolated COVID-19 proteins from the virus into the body. They can’t introduce the disease, but they can produce an immune response. Novavax has the vaccine with this technology that’s closest to approval.

Chinese and Indian companies are leaders in working on inactivated or weakened virus vaccines, which is a more traditional vaccine technology, but the vaccine can take a long time to manufacture.

Here is a Washington Post piece on the various technologies, with a little more detail. 

Some of the vaccines require two doses for full effectiveness. (Johnson&Johnson’s is a one-dose vaccine.) Some need special care in handling, like super cold temperatures—but while that can require specialized refrigeration units, they can generally be transported in coolers on dry ice to immunization facilities. So you don’t need all that many high-tech freezers.

If you’re following the vaccine issue, you know that one of the big issues is when vaccines will be available in large amounts and who gets a vaccination first. The AARP has a piece reviewing the state of vaccine issues here. 

There is a fairly straightforward approval process. First, the Food and Drug Administration is authorized to issue an Emergency Use Authorization. As mentioned earlier, Pfizer and Moderna have already applied; others aren't far behind.

Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA is permitted in emergencies like a pandemic. The organization itself says it “may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.” More data here. 

Once the FDA does its part, the ball is the court of the Centers for Disease Control and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which not only decides whether to approve, but who should get it. The committee has already voted that the first recipients will be “health care personnel, other essential workers, adults with high-risk medical conditions, and adults aged ≥65 years (including residents of long-term care facilities.)” 

It’s a big deal and there’s lots of pressure, so prognosticators are suggesting approval could happen before Christmas, or at least before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, officials in every state are setting up their vaccine distribution plans. And yes, that includes Hawai`i. You can learn more about our state's vaccination program here

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Mask science is clear: Wear one

There’s been confusion about masks, but science has cleared a lot of it up.

Here’s the short version:

Yes, masks limit the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Yes, if you wear a mask of any kind, you’re less likely to spread it to someone else.

And also, yes, if you wear a mask, you’re less likely to get the disease yourself, or if you do, it is likely to be less severe.

Can we now just do ourselves a favor and just wear at least a cloth mask when we’re around other people?

If you drop a glass and it breaks on the kitchen floor, you put slippers on to keep from getting cut until it’s cleaned up. Simple enough.

Cowboys who ride through brush and cactus wear chaps to protect their legs from scratches and pokes. Simple enough.

There’s a serious disease wafting on moisture droplets in the air. You wear a mask to filter them out. 

Seems simple enough.

This disease is only a year or so old, and we arre still learning about it. That’s why the guidance is changing—because we’re learning more. 

In the early days, when infection levels were still very low, the recommendation was for the general public not to wear masks—largely to preserve the mask supply for health care workers who were at highest risk.

Then this amazing cottage industry rose up, and folks were sewing cloth masks. Folks studying them found that, yep, they reduced the chance of a sick person spreading the disease to others. That led to the line, “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”

But most of us really wore the masks in hope that it might actually protect us, even if just a little.

And sure enough, the science shows we were right. My mask also protects me.

If you’re around covidiots who insist on not wearing masks, you’re a little safer if you are wearing one. But you’re even safer not to be around those bare-faced covidiots in the first place.

So here is some of the science:


That’s a July article from the Journal of General Internal Medicine with this headline, “Masks Do More Than Protect Others During COVID-19: Reducing the Inoculum of SARS-CoV-2 to Protect the Wearer.”

The upshot of the article is that even if you do get a dose, it will likely be a smaller dose, and it potentially gives you a less serious case of the disease, and maybe even an asymptomatic case—meaning you got it but you don’t feel sick.

Here’s a paragraph from that paper, describing what researchers found: 

“A report from a pediatric hemodialysis unit in Indiana, where all patients and staff were masked, demonstrated that staff rapidly developed antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 after exposure to a single symptomatic patient with COVID-19. In the setting of masking, however, none of the new infections was symptomatic. And in a recent outbreak in a seafood processing plant in Oregon where all workers were issued masks each day at work, the rate of asymptomatic infection among the 124 infected was 95%. An outbreak in a Tyson chicken plant in Arkansas with masking also showed a 95% asymptomatic rate of infection.

But if you want to avoid getting sick at all, it’s best to go for the trifecta. Wear the mask. Keep your distance from people not in your household. Wash your hands frequently and well.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Oh, the COVID conspiracies. Can all be true? Can any?

Okay, the COVID-19 conspiracy industry, if it had a stock symbol, would now officially be the hottest stock on the market.

They can’t all be true. There’s considerable evidence that none of them is.

5G stratagem

There are radiation-phobes who are using COVID-19 to advance their anti-5G agendas. (5G is a high-speed cellular data network.)

It is painful to have to repeat this, but clearly 5G doesn’t cause viral disease. If nothing else doesn’t debunk this bizarre position, keep in mind that 5G still doesn’t exist in most of the world. And doesn’t exist at all in many of the places with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks. So, (sigh), if 5G caused COVID-19, how can COVID-19 exist when the vast majority of the world has no 5G?

Another 5G conspiracy theory is that COVID-19 doesn’t exist. That it is really just a hoax to cover up something called “5G Syndrome,” which is presumably a kind of radiation sickness. Again, that doesn’t explain people getting sick in areas that are absent 5G. And it doesn’t explain how the worldwide medical community, using different tests, somehow erroneously found viruses that weren’t there.

Depopulation scheme

There are folks who believe this pandemic is a secret plot to depopulate the world or a certain portion of the world. But wasn’t that AIDS/HIV? Or Ebola. Or SARS. Is it that the folks trying to kill off much of the world just aren’t that competent?

Realistically, pandemics have been with us for a long time. Think of the 1918 Spanish Flu. And much earlier, the Black Death. And before that the Justinian Plague. Both of the latter were likely bubonic plague. Smallpox and cholera have also caused historic pandemics. You don’t need an evil conspiracy to have pandemics.

Vaccination plot

There’s a weird one that COVID-19 is just a means to an end, a long game, a conspiracy to force everyone to accept vaccines. Well, dude, you can always not take the shot. But when a working vaccine is developed, you should.

Police state incubator

I heard a suggestion that this pandemic is a scheme aimed at putting a permanent police state into effect. Doesn’t China already have one of those? Why would they launch this?

Reelection intrigue

Some conservative pundits argue this is a Democrat conspiracy to reduce President Trump's likelihood of being re-elected. That wouldn’t explain why the disease is not only in the U.S. but everywhere else as well, or why Democratic mayors and governors appear to be working far harder than the President on responding to it.

Another theory

But maybe a new theory would be that COVID-19 is a secret government scheme to bring down organized governments, liberal, socialist, capitalist, communist, whatever. That’s it, a Greenie plot to solve climate change and save the planet by destroying the global economy.

It’s as random as the others. On its face, it might make sense, except for lack of evidence.

Debunk your own conspiracy

There’s a fun resource on conspiracy theories that can help you recognize one when you come across it. It is “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook,” by cognitive psychology professor Stephan Lewandowsky of University of Bristol and John Cook of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.

The booklet can be downloaded free from here.  

My favorite clue recognizing a conspiracy is its invulnerability to evidence. This is the “but that’s what they want you to think” argument. If every piece of contrary evidence is met with that response—that’s a clue.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Friday, April 3, 2020

COVID-19 conspiracy theories: Hoofbeats and zebras?

Lots of conspiracy theories about the new coronavirus make little sense, and if you actually apply a little scientific rigor to the issue, they fall apart.

They even contradict each other. If it came from a Chinese lab, why? They got hit first. If, as some
Russians say, it came from America, why are we Americans also sick? Whoa, what about the fact that
Russia seemed to be largely free of the disease, isnʻt that suspicious? Well itʻs not, any more--they've got a growing number of cases as well.

The philosopical theory known as Occamʻs Razor suggests that the simplest solution is generally the
right one. There's the old line that if you're in the American west and hear hoofbeats, your first thought should not be zebras.

A group of researchers looked into whatʻs likely and whatʻs not about the origins of COVID-19, also
known as SARS-CoV-2.

1. They found that we know of seven previous cases of this class of disease getting into humans;
2. They found that itʻs highly unlikely that this was a human-engineered virus.

Their study was published in the journal Nature Medicine. The authors are American, Australian and British researchers Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W.vIan Lipkin, Edward C. Holmes and Robert F. Garry.

"Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated," they wrote.

One clue, they said, is that when you look at the genetics, this virus behaves more like a random
mutation than a purposeful construct. In other wordS, if someone had engineered it, theyʻd have done a better job, or at least would have done it differently.

Which is not to say that labs donʻt work on viruses. They do. But not like this. "The genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone," the authors wrote.

The most likely pathway is one of two, Anderson and his co-authors said. Either the virus evolved into its current form in an animal and then was passed to humans, or an earlier form of the virus passed from animals to humans and then evolved into its current form in humans.

You may have heard that many of the early victims of the virus had visited live-animal markets in
Wuhan, China. And that the animal host might have been bats, or pangolins or birds.

So far, none of those animals has been found with a form of the virus that looks close enough to be the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, they said, but they admitted that the animal population has been "massively undersampled." Pangolins seem to have the virus version closest to the pandemic version.

Alternatively, it is possible an early version of the virus jumped repeatedly to humans in a version that did not spread from human to human. Until one evolved the ability to be transmitted between people.

It is not yet possible to determine which of these things actually led to the outbreak, but there is lots of study going on, and at some point, it will be possible.

"We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible," but more research will doubtless show which of the natural mechanisms was the more likely culprit.

One of the best arguments against a laboratory conspiracy to infect the world: Animal-to-human transfer of disease has been a common source of human misery since long before sophisticated laboratories were set up. There is even a term for it, zoonosis. That link is the Centers for Disease Control site on zoonotic diseases.

We have had lots of zoonotic diseases in Hawai`i, like leptospirosis and dengue, but most of these diseases require an animal-to-human infection path for each sick human. The difference with COVID-19 is that once it crossed the species barrier, it could be transmitted directly human to human.

This has happened repeatedly. Think of bird flu and swine flu. The source of the devastating 1918 "Spanish" flu, is not well known, although it almost certainly didn't come from Spain. It went on to infect a third of the world population and to kill an estimated 50 million people. Some suggest it might have crossed from birds.

Thus, this is neither new nor rare. "More than 60% of the roughly 400 emerging infectious diseases that have been identified since 1940 are zoonotic," wrote the authors of this 2012 paper in the journal The Lancet, which has the ominous title, "Prediction and prevention of the next pandemic zoonosis."

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Thursday, March 19, 2020

COVID-19: Not just the elderly; all age groups are at risk

If you were pre-retirement age and comforted that only old folks were getting severely ill from COVID-19, understand that things have changed.

Middle-aged folks are also severely impacted. And even infants, who seemed entirely protected in early reviews, are at risk.

The high risk assessment for the elderly came from very early reports out of China, but now that itʻs a pandemic, and thereʻs a lot more information available, the picture is growing more complex.

The upshot: While the death rate is higher among the elderly, the hospitalization rate is only slightly lower for folks in the middle-age category. One in ten or so people in almost every age group get so sick they need medical intervention. Those under age 20 seem to do the best, but anyone with underlying health conditions is at increased risk.

It is another justification for the seemingly severe recommendations for keeping your human contacts to a minimum, and for keeping those contacts at a distance.

Here is a Centers for Disease Control report on patients within the United States.

It reconfirms that death rates are highest among the oldest patients—up to a quarter of infected people older than 85 are dying. The death rates go down as ages go down, but only the kids under 19 appear to avoid the severest symptoms.

Of the 12 percent of known U.S. patients who were hospitalized, "18% were 45–54 years, and 20% were aged 20–44 years."

Thatʻs 38 percent aged 55 or younger.

In France, half were younger than 65. In Holland, half were younger than 50.

And while infants rarely get the disease, and the symptoms tend to be milder than in adults, infants do get it. Here is a China paper about one fatal case. 

During one week in January in China, six children, with a median age of three years, were hospitalized with Covid-19. It wasnʻt pretty for them: 

"All six children had previously been completely healthy. Common clinical characteristics included high fever (>39°C) (in all six patients), cough (in all six), and vomiting (in four). Laboratory investigations showed that the levels of lymphocytes, white cells, and neutrophils were below the normal range in six, four, and three patients, respectively. Four of the six patients had pneumonia, as assessed radiographically, with computed tomographic scans of the chest showing typical viral pneumonia patterns."

That was from this paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

Here arerecommendations from Johns Hopkins for parents with infants. 

And here are Centers for Disease Control recommendations for those with kids. 

As this is written on March 19, 2020, there have been a quarter million positive cases worldwide, and 10,000 deaths.

©Jan TenBruggencate 2020

COVID-19: Bored while homebound? Plant a garden. The benefits are many.

Nothing to do and worried about food as we all hunker down for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Plant a garden. Or get to know a farmer whoʻll deliver fresh vegetables.

Our farmers, lacking access to markets, are incentivised to find a way to get their crops to a market, any market, and many are looking at options including delivery.

And if you have a plot of land, and are stuck sheltering in place, once the rain stops, maybe till up a few square feet. You could be eating your own fresh vegetables in a few weeks.

Radishes will get you a harvestable crop in 21 days. Arugula, green onions or carrots in a month. Spinach in six weeks. Bush beans in six weeks to two months. Kale or broccoli in a couple of months.

Starch crops take longer. Sweet potatoes can be ready in three or four months, kalo in nine to 12 months for the corm, but leaves can be harvested for boiled or steamed greens much sooner.

Tomatoes generally can take three to five months to harvest, but cherry tomatoes can be ready in six to eight weeks. Cherry tomatoes have the additional benefit of being less susceptible to being stung by fruit flies.

Gardening not only gives you something to do in these difficult times, but the product is good for you, too.

During World War II, people in the Islands (and across the nation) planted what were popularly called Victory Gardens or War Gardens. Food supplies were uncertain, so folks planted their own crops in whatever plots of land they had.

Iʻve been told that Hawai`i was largely self-sufficient in food—or at least in many kinds of food—back then.

The message: Support your local farmer, or grow your own. It will have the side benefit of helping you understand just how much work it takes to produce your food.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19: The numbers donʻt look good

Anybody whoʻs still suggesting this whole COVID-19 thing is overblown...theyʻre lying to you, or theyʻre misinformed.

It is in fact frightening, and fast getting worse. The United States is still at the start of the upward trend in infections.

Consider this fact that you havenʻt heard on the news: The European Union now has had three times more cases per capita than China.

Here are the numbers: China has had 81,000 cases, and has a population of 1.4 billion. That works out to 57.5 cases per million people.

The European Union has 69,900 cases and a population of 446 million. Thatʻs 157 cases per million residents—three times worse than China.

The United States so far has just 6,420 cases in a population of 331 million, or 19.4 cases per million.
Those case numbers come from this site. The E.U population numbers are from this site. 

Chinaʻs case load has dropped dramatically. They did that with draconian measures, including aggressive quarantine, bounties paid to people who turned in quarantine violators, tracking peoplesʻ cell phones and requiring everyone wear masks whenever outside.

South Korea had a severe outbreak, and approached it in a very different way, with the most expansive testing program in the world: More than 270,000 of its residents were tested as it tracked down and quarantined anyone who was sick with COVID-19.

South Korea has 8,320 cases. That works out to 162 cases per million of its 51.5 million residents. But it has dropped its number of new cases dramatically. The magazine Science printed a story today on how South Korea did that. 

As I write this on March 17, 2020, Italy has the worst caseload in the European Union and perhaps the world—521 cases per million residents. (31,500 cases in a population of 60.5 million.)

Just looking at the numbers suggests much worse is yet to come for the United States. Our population is about 328 million. 

If we are able to limit our outbreak to Chinaʻs size, weʻre looking at 19,000 cases. (57.5 times 328 million.)

If we can keep it to Koreaʻs, then itʻs 53,000. (162 times 328 million.)

But if we get to Italyʻs situation, itʻs 171,000 (521 times 328 million.)

One issue is that while China and South Korea used two different strategies to begin to get a handle on the outbreak, the United States has been using neither. Not aggressive, almost punitive quarantine measures like China. And not aggressive, intrusive testing like Korea.

Our national hope seems to be that a combination of voluntary isolation measures and a moderate testing protocol will do the trick.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 Fake News: Bogus "cure" rumors, debunked here

The bogus  home cures for COVID-19 are showing up all over.

Fortunately most wonʻt hurt you, and some might even ease symptoms a little, but not cure you. That said, some of these crazy "cures" can kill you.

Hereʻs one lie: Gargling with salt water will wash the disease out of your throat and youʻll be better. Or gargling with warm salt water and vinegar will kill the virus.

Simple logic reminds you that the virus isnʻt only in your throat. Itʻs also in your nasal passages, in your lungs, in your blood, and even in feces. Gargling isnʻt going to have any impact on most of those locations.

Gargling with or drinking bleach, which some have suggested, has the additional downside of being dangerous as well as ineffective. It can burn your throat and stomach, it can collapse your blood pressure, it can put you into a coma. Donʻt do it. Hereʻs some information from the New York State health office. Also, wiping or spraying down your body with a bleach solution may clean your skin, but it wonʻt have an impact on the disease inside you.

Eating garlic or drinking garlic soup might keep people away from you due to the smell—which is an interesting take on social distancing—but thereʻs no evidence it helps with the disease. Here is that one and a few other myths from the World Health Organizationʻs website. 

Drinking large amounts of alcohol or water wonʻt prevent or stop the disease. The World Health Organizationʻs twitter feed debunks these theories. 

There are predatory personalities online, on radio and on TV who promote bogus cures of several kinds. Often, youʻll find theyʻre selling their special "cure." Theyʻre getting rich on the backs of the sick. Some have already been told by government agencies to stop with the fake cures.

Fortunately, there are several websites that are actively responding to malicious and erroneous medical information about this outbreak. Hereʻs one.

The upshot: donʻt do stupid stuff just because some stranger (or even a friend) told you it might work.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2020

Saturday, March 14, 2020

COVID-19: Kaua`i has its first confirmed cases, and debunking fake news--folks, the barges are still coming

Kaua`i today was confirmed to have its first active cases of COVID-19, in a tourist couple who are being kept in isolation.

The couple is at an undisclosed site overseen by Kaua`i County and being monitored by the state Department of Health. The case is being managed according to protocols set up in advance in anticipation of the event.

The confirmation, which was announced in a mass email from Kaua`i County a couple of hours after midnight, was based on testing of the couple performed yesterday (Friday, March 13, 2020).

Meanwhile, the stateʻs epidemic rumor mill continues to churn.

One of the most active rumors, that cargo to the island is being disrupted, has spawned new runs on supplies.

"I have never seen Costco so full. They had lines snaking away from the checkout counters, some of them all the way back to the pharmacy," one friend told me Friday afternoon.

At Safeway, two women asked me whether it was true that Young Brothers barges have been blocked from coming. Others reported rumors that the harbors have been closed.

None of that is true. I talked to store officials, who insist their supply lines are intact, and harbors and shipping officials. Food and toilet paper are still making their ways to the island. 

What the panic buying and hoarding has done is move supplies from store shelves, where people can get them as needed, into peoplesʻ home larders, where excess supplies are not available to people in need.

Matson took the step of issuing a press release in response to the rumors: 

“Matson intends to maintain all service schedules as normal with three arrivals a week to Honolulu and twice a week calls to each neighbor island port.

Young Brothers, the inter-island barge service, issued its own statement:   

"There are currently NO changes to sailing schedule or cargo acceptance at all ports. YB will continue to monitor COVID-19 and its impact to the State."

© Jan TenBruggencate 2020