Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Community Clinics Provide Free Vaccine, Mostly Free Testing

By Max Dible
August 2, 2021, 2:07 PM HST
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People get screened or tested during Alii Health Center’s COVID-19 drive-thru site at Old Kona Airport on March 28. (PC: Tiffany DeMasters)

Amid what has proven to be an unprecedented surge of coronavirus throughout the state over the previous several weeks, Hawai´i County has reinstituted large-scale community testing that had been previously shelved in favor of focusing resources on vaccination efforts.

Combination testing and vaccination clinics are again weekly fixtures across the island, and while they are advertised as free, that isn’t entirely accurate. Vaccination is free for all those who are eligible, meaning anyone 12 and older, at the weekly clinics and anywhere else inoculations are offered. The testing is also mostly free, but only under certain circumstances.

Those who wish to be tested and have a doctor’s referral, are experiencing COVID-19 and/or flu-like symptoms, or have been contacted by the state’s contact tracing program because they may have been exposed to a positive case will receive the test free of charge — either through their insurance provider, if they have one, or the county, if they don’t.

Individuals seeking tests for travel-related purposes can present an insurance card as a form of payment, or pay out-of-pocket.

Those who are not ill or experiencing COVID-related symptoms, are not or have not been traveling, and are not known to have been a close contact of a positive case have no need to seek a coronavirus test. If, for whatever reason, such an individual is still seeking a test, it must be paid for out-of-pocket.

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The next scheduled testing/vaccination clinics will be offered Tuesday at three separate locations:

  • North Kona at the Kona Aquatics Park from 3 pm to 6 pm
  • Puna at the Cooper Center in Volcano from 9 am to noon
  • J Hara Store in Kurtistown from 2 pm to 6 pm
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The State Department of Health (DOH), the county-sponsored clinics, and pharmacies offer coronavirus vaccinations on a regular basis. For more information, visit the Hawai´i County Civil Defense website for a list of all clinics and pharmacies providing vaccinations and testing.

DOH reported 76 new positive cases of the virus on the Big Island Monday. Civil Defense is currently monitoring 685 active cases islandwide, with 16 persons hospitalized.

Hilo Medical Center (HMC) over the weekend initiated a no-visitor policy, when patients admitted due to COVID-19 doubled in a single night from six to 12 individuals.

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Kona Community Hospital (KCH) is also dealing with fallout from the viral surge that has brought triple-digit positive cases to Hawai´i every day for two weeks and counting. The daily two-week average on the Big Island is 68 new infections with a test positivity rate of 7.5%, the latter of which leads the state.

Government officials at both the state and county levels have indicated that a return to previously lifted coronavirus restrictions is possible if the current surge is not adequately curbed.

The best solution, KCH Regional Director of Marketing and Strategic Planning Judy Donovan said, is widespread vaccination efforts.

“COVID-19 infection rates on Hawai´i Island continue to increase sharply. The high positivity rate has resulted in increased inpatient admissions, which is straining Hawai´i Island hospitals,” Donovan said. “At KCH, we admitted five new COVID patients over the weekend. The vast majority of inpatient COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated. We are appealing to anyone who has been postponing receiving the COVID vaccine to do so now.”

“If you’re vaccinated, you can still be exposed, become a carrier and expose others. The good news is that symptoms, if any, will likely be far less severe than if not vaccinated,” she continued. “Because of the current surge, our county is one large petri dish, and we should avoid exposing ourselves or others to the virus. To remain safe, we need to continue to wear masks, socially distance, wash/sanitize hands frequently and avoid large gatherings (especially indoors). Doing this in private, public and business settings is highly recommended.”

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations.
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