COVID Reaches Final US County

Tiny Hawaii county was last to report a case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2021 4:32 AM CST
COVID Has Now Reached Every US County
Officials say the isolated county adopted strict rules, including mandatory mask-wearing, early in the pandemic.   (Getty Images/sainaniritu)

It took less than a year for COVID-19 to spread to every one of America's more than 3,000 counties. The last county to record an infection was Hawaii's Kalawao County, the smallest and least populous county in the country, where quarantine was a way of life for more than a century, the Wall Street Journal reports. The county is on the Kaluapapa peninsula on Moloka'i island. Steep cliffs cut it off from the rest of the island and the only land access is via a mule trail. People with leprosy, now known as Hansen's disease, were exiled there from 1866 to 1969 and the 70 or so current residents include around a dozen Hansen's disease patients, with an average age of 86, reports the Washington Post.

Hawaii health officials say the county's first coronavirus case was reported in December, weeks after a case was finally reported in Loving County, Texas, population 169. A resident who had tested negative in Honolulu tested positive after flying back to the county. Officials say the virus didn't spread in the community because the person and others on the flight quarantined after arrival. "To me, that person was a hero, because they were honest, and they reported it, and they followed the rules of quarantining when they returned from outside the settlement," Glenn Wasserman, chief of the communicable disease and public health nursing division at the Hawaii Department of Health, tells the Journal. (More COVID-19 stories.)

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