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COVID-19 Popup Clinics Ongoing as Economy Slowly Reopens

May 15, 2020, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated May 15, 11:22 AM
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Health care workers will continue to provide drive-through COVID-19 screening and testing throughout the Big Island as the state begins to reopen for business.

For the past six weeks, Ali‘i Health Center has provided screening and testing in the parking lot of Keauhou Shopping Center. As businesses began to reopen, the center moved the drive-through behind the theater. Screening and testing will continue to be offered every Monday and Thursday.

From the beginning, Anne Broderson, advanced practice registered nurse and cardiology nurse practitioner at Ali‘i Health, said they would keep the clinic open for as long as needed or as long as supplies last. On Thursday, the drive-through ran like a well-oiled machine, moving vehicles through smoothly as individuals were screened and tested.

“It’s inevitable that there will be more infections,” Broderson said Thursday. “Having testing available through that (economy reopening) process is crucial.”

With continued testing, Broderson added, the cases will be controllable.

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Ali‘i Health is the largest screening and testing site in the county. Overall, they’ve tested more than 1,300 individuals. In April, Ali‘i Health consistently tested 100-110 people every Monday, and Thursday the drive was open. This month, Broderson said, the numbers dipped to about 50 per day.

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“We just want to remind everyone we’re here,” Broderson said.

Dr. Kaohimanu Akiona, a member of Premier Medical Group, has been leading screening and testing efforts for the O‘ahu-based organization on the Big Island, taking the popup clinic to rural communities. For the past several weeks, Akiona has been conducting drive-throughs islandwide with the cooperation of Hawai‘i County, local health care workers and volunteers.

As the number of cases has dwindled, Akiona plans to scale back the five-day a week operation to three days a week. Starting Memorial Day week, they will temporarily cease drive-through services.

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“We’re preparing for the second wave,” she said. “This is a good time to gather data and figure out what to do next.”

Akiona said the bigger plan is still pending as there have been discussing how to help the business community with screening and testing as more establishments open.

Akiona also started providing antibody tests during the Premier Medical Group-sponsored drives. The next stage in testing, she said, is to test those who couldn’t get a swab.

Antibody testing, Akiona added, is not a diagnostic tool, however, it is helpful in identifying where the disease was or how many people have it.

“I think we need to start using the tools we have,” she said.

While Ali‘i Health doesn’t perform the test on-site, a test can be ordered by the health care worker during the screening process. Individuals are then referred to Clinical Laboratories or Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. for a blood draw.

“There’s not an established medical necessity for these tests so people will be charged,” Broderson said. “Our primary goal is to assess active infection.”

The Hawai‘i County COVID-19 Task Force is a partner of Ali‘i Health as well as Premier Medical Group. Task Force member Garrett Kim said testing is extremely important to keep surveillance of the virus on the island.

“We don’t know where we are as a community without the testing,” Kim said.

More than 5,100 tests have been conducted on the Big Island alone. The 75 confirmed cases have all recovered and have been released from isolation. When the number of cases starts to go up again, Kim said, the testing allows health care workers to keep those numbers in check, avoiding clusters or breakouts.

“Just because our numbers are great, don’t let your guard down,” Kim advised the community. “COVID-19 will be around for a while. We need to maintain our vigilance and protect our community.”

Hawai‘i National Guard has also been a partner at Ali‘i Health and Premier Medical Group screening and testing sites. Various businesses and community members have donated food and PPE.

“It’s a team mission, no matter which agency you’re with,” Broderson said.

Carmen Wagner, Quality Improvement and Compliance at Ali‘i Health, said their center is just trying to stay as prepared as possible during this pandemic.

“The efforts to screen and test the community are inspiring,” Wagner said. “So many different agencies are coming together for a common cause.”

Keauhou Shopping Center continues to provide the space for Ali‘i Health to conduct this community service. General Manager Kristin Kamakau released the following statement:

At Keauhou Shopping Center, community is at the heart of everything we do. The health and well-being of the Center’s ‘ohana – its tenants, employees, patrons, and community — is our top priority and has always been at the forefront of what we do. We understand that the center serves as a necessity providing essential services for our communities and we are thankful for the community’s cooperation in staying home and doing their part to flatten the curve during the last several weeks.
It has been a great partnership with Ali`i Health in the past few weeks while they conducted drive thru COVID-19 testing in the parking lot of Keauhou Shopping Center. This was a very convenient and important service that they provided for the public, and we greatly appreciate their services. We are excited and prepared as our tenants begin to re-enter the property and understand that there will be long lasting effects from COVID-19. We have missed the community and look forward to their return.”

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