COVID-19 Testing Sites to Roll Out to Big Island

March 14, 2020, 5:53 PM HST (Updated March 14, 2020, 9:08 PM)
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North Hawaii Community Hospital.

Testing sites for COVID-19 continue to roll out statewide. By next week, North Hawai‘i Community Hospital will be able to provide testing for the virus.

The state of Hawai‘i currently has four presumptive positive cases — two on O‘ahu and two on Kaua‘i. The ability to perform testing for the novel coronavirus has been a phased approach, starting with the state lab and the Tripler Army Facility.

“We have not seen any sign so far of community spread,” said Director of Hawai‘i Department of Health Bruce Anderson. “I would urge again this is the time to take strong preventative measures.”

The state is working with clinics and hospitals on all islands in an effort to standardize the testing and screening approach and to certify the private labs for testing. Anderson said the state lab is able to turn over sample results in a few hours.

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On Saturday, officials said private healthcare facilities on the Big Island have started drive-through clinics, however they didn’t know where those clinics were located.

Kaiser Permanente in Kona said this past week they’ve been screening everyone who comes through the door for symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

“Our lab is working really hard and we’re hoping to have our own testing abilities in a week or so,” Kaiser says.

Anderson said the testing sites will take a lot of pressure off the emergency rooms as they’re getting slammed with people who want to get tested for the virus.

“It’s a very efficient way for screening people outside the hospital,” Anderson said.

Screenings are occurring at Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital and North Hawaii Community Hospital. At NHCH, starting March 16, all staff and visitors will be screened for fever and exposure risk in the main entrance lobby prior to entering the hospital.

Testing for COVID-19 at NHCH will be available with doctor’s orders Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside the Lucy Henriques building starting March 16.

Patients must have a physician’s order to be tested at any testing site.

“As we’ve heard, all the major plans in the state are waiving patient copays and deductibles for COVID-19 testing,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO and president of Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i. “If follow up care is required, deductibles will apply.”

DOH launched a statewide surveillance testing program to identify cases and community spread of the coronavirus. Testing on the first two batches of samples collected statewide has been completed, and of the 62 random samples tested, all 62 were negative for COVID-19.

Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said the purpose of the program is to pull across the age spectrum to see who’s at risk.

“Still, the real question is: what about the kids? Are they getting the disease or are they drivers of the disease,” Park said. “A lot of what we’re doing is trying to contribute to the understanding of the disease on a national and global level.”

COVID-19 testing is not intended for all residents. Testing those who are well or at low risk for exposure is not an efficient use of resources. Last week, the DOH issued a medical advisory with risk assessment and management guidelines to healthcare providers to identify patients who are most at risk for COVID-19 infection.

Testing at the DOH State Laboratories Division is being conducted on Persons Under Investigation who are at high or medium risk.

Those considered at high risk are those who have been living with an intimate partner, or is caring for a person who has been confirmed positive for COVID-19.

Those who are at medium risk are those who have traveled to an affected country or state, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, within the past 14 days; has had intimate contact with a confirmed symptomatic person; or has had close contact with a symptomatic person without precautions.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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