County Readjusting Post COVID Test Program
By Tiffany DeMasters
October 22, 2020, 6:48 AM HST (Updated October 22, 2020, 11:34 AM)
Mayor Harry Kim. PC: Team Ige
Hawai‘i County is currently looking at offering its post-arrival COVID-19 rapid antigen test to trans-Pacific travelers four days after arrival on the island instead of the day they fly in.
The post-test, currently required of all travelers before they leave the airport, has yielded one positive and nine false positives out of approximately 3,600 people who have landed on the Big Island since the state launched its pre-travel coronavirus testing program on Oct. 16.
The state’s program requires individuals to provide a negative COVID test 72 hours before coming to the islands if they wish to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Mayor Harry Kim said the vast majority of people coming from the mainland were getting their test within 24 hours before arriving on the Big Island, noting it wasn’t a productive use of resources.
“No one disagrees that more than one test is good,” the mayor stated. “What we’re doing now is looking at how we can continue the second test on Hawai‘i island and how we can go with the two-test system to make it more meaningful.”
The county has been working with Premier Medical Group (PMG) to provide this post-test, requires travelers to submit to a PCR test if the antigen test comes back positive. Moving forward, Kim said, he hopes to set up three testing sites, Kona, Hilo and the Kohala Coast, where people can go to test on their fourth day after arriving on the island.
The Mauna Lani Luxury Resort has already agreed to set up a coronavirus operations center, which would allow for testing and provide information on the disease. Dr. Kaohimanu Akiona with PMG is currently tasked with finding locations in Kona and Hilo.
Kim thinks it would be nice to have a database of 8,000 to 10,000 already in the system before setting up these test sites, which he thinks they’ll have by the weekend. The mayor added that he hopes to get the sites in place by early next week.
Until then, post-travel testing will continue at the airports. Even if the test is successfully moved to another site, Akiona said, PMG staff will still be at the airport to capture and register all the arrivals, noting that while they can’t require quarantine, they can still collect information, i.e. names, how they can be contacted, etc.
Akiona is aware of the possibility that these trans-Pacific travelers won’t come for a post-test. However, she still thinks it’s a good idea.
Akiona thinks that there are ways to make the four-day post-test work if there is an incentive or they have to quarantine to get the test.