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Final COVID-19 District Testing Clinic Scheduled Today in Kona

By Tiffany DeMasters
May 22, 2021, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated May 21, 8:42 PM
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Hawai‘i County’s COVID-19 district testing efforts will come to an end today, May 22.

Two pop-up testing clinics are scheduled on Saturday. One will be in North Kona at the West Hawai‘i Civic Center from 9 a.m. to noon. A test and vaccination operation is scheduled in Pāhoa at the HUB from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nurse practitioner Anne Broderson was at the forefront of bringing testing into the Kona community. In March 2020, Broderson helped establish a regular COVID testing drive-through in Keauhou while working at Ali‘i Health Center.

“I believe testing has helped control the spread,” Broderson told Big Island Now earlier this week, adding having a test allows health care workers to pinpoint the disease.

On Monday, Hawai‘i County announced it would be doing away with district testing due to the growing rates of vaccinations on the island. The decision to transition away from the county testing program comes as there has been a drastic decline in demand at all testing sites over the course of the past few months.

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“Hopefully, the loss of testing is a pivot to vaccines being accessible,” Broderson said.

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The Big Island nurse expressed concern with ending the program as it has provided access to many of the rural communities. She fears someone who might need to be tested won’t get one because it’s not convenient. She also worries people might get billed for testing when they shouldn’t.

“If people are wearing masks the infection rates should be maintained,” Broderson said.

Broderson has also worked to get the COVID vaccine available to communities that might not have easy access to it. She has gone into coffee farm communities and public housing. While there are varying reasons why someone wouldn’t take the vaccine, Broderson said, one of the biggest factors is it’s not accessible or convenient.

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Laura Mott, spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente, said COVID testing is free, as are most screening tests. The vaccine is also free.

Since there is still transmission of the disease within communities across the state, Mott said, testing is still needed.

“(The) vaccine only protects the whole community if enough people take it…” Mott explained.

Kona resident Codi Melville said as long as testing was still available free of charge at hospitals and clinics, he didn’t see a problem with ending district testing.

Testing will be transferred to medical care providers, which have been doing the bulk of testing since vaccinations became widely available.

“With 52% of our island’s population receiving at least one vaccination shot, we feel that it is time to transition away from our community district testing program,” said Talmadge Magno, Civil Defense Administrator. “We have seen a steady decline in demand for services and feel that the medical care providers around the island are now equipped to begin taking on the role of community testing.”

County officials say testing should be free with insurance. However, some clinics on the Big Island do continue to offer it for free.

“Our island has done an amazing job at keeping our numbers low, people out of hospitals, and getting shots in arms,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “As we begin to make this transition to our on-island medical care providers, we would like to encourage our community to continue getting vaccinated to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our county. We are on the path to normalcy, and with your help, we will be able to beat this virus once and for all, but it will take all of us.”

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.
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