Big Island Coronavirus Updates

West Hawai‘i Community Health Center Tests Over 100 for COVID-19

April 1, 2020, 10:03 AM HST
* Updated April 1, 11:42 AM
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External triage center set up outside West Hawai’i Community Health Center for COVID-19 testing. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

Testing results for COVID-19 continue to roll in at testing sites in West Hawai‘i.

As of March 31, West Hawai‘i Community Health Center tested 148 individuals — 107 were negative, one was positive and 40 samples are still pending. The Ali‘i Health Center started hosting public screening and testing drives last week. Their first event yielded 174 test samples, 80 of which were negative as of Tuesday evening.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health released site maps of areas where COVID-19 cases were confirmed statewide. In its early stages of transmission across Hawai‘i Island, the map indicates, the coronavirus has been most heavily concentrated in Kailua-Kona and the immediately surrounding areas. Multiple cases of COVID-19 have also been found in the Hilo District stretching south toward the border of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

As of April 1, 21 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Hawai‘i Island is with 11 recovered, according to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency Wednesday morning. The remaining 10 individuals are quarantined at home with Hawai‘i Department of Health monitoring.

“At this date for Hawai‘i Island, no one that has been infected by the virus had to be hospitalized,” Civil Defense states.

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WHCHC was the first Kona clinic to start performing screenings and testings in West Hawai‘i at their Kuakini Highway location on March 13. CEO of West Hawai‘i Community Health Center Richard Taaffe said the clinic screens all patients who come to their door. If any of the individuals exhibit symptoms, they are sent to the triage tent in the parking lot.

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WHCHC is not performing tests on the general public, however they are accepting new patients. Since they started testing, Taaffe said, healthcare workers are seeing 25 people per day in the triage tent.

“If they seem to have all the symptoms, we’ll test for flu,” Taaffe said. “If they test negative for the flu, we test for COVID.”

WHCHC has screened between 300-325 symptomatic patients. Of that number, 148 were tested.

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As clinics and hospitals continue to screen and test for COVID-19, they are running low on supplies to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. The community has reached out and donated fabric masks to many of the facilities, including WHCHC.

Overall, Taaffe said, the Kona clinic is low on sanitizer and has 10 days worth of personal protective equipment.

“We’re using the N95s all day for as long as we can,” Taaffe said.

The community response to their needs, Taaffe said, has been incredible, caring and giving.

“The way they’re (community) reaching out is a real show of aloha,” Taaffe said.

While Taaffe emphasized the importance of social distancing, he said, it’s important that we stay connected as a community.

Ali‘i Health will continue to hold pop-up screening and testing and encourage people to utilize the Telehealth service for prescreening. Their next event is on April 2 at the Keauhou Shopping Center, locating at 78-6831 Ali‘i Dr.

Ali‘i Health will continue to host the pop-up drives every Monday and Thursday until the coronavirus is contained or they run out of supplies. The drives will run from 8 a.m. to noon.

Aloha Kona Urgent Care, located in Pottery Terrace, is also screening and testing for COVID-19.

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