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Protocols urged before visits to Hawaii’s remote coronavirus screening sites

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As testing for COVID-19 ramps up across the state, health officials and medical providers are encouraging residents to follow proper screening protocols to prevent overtaxing limited health care resources.

As of Tuesday some 40 facilities on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island were providing walk-in and/or drive-in testing services. Lines were long early on, in part because some residents mistakenly believed that they could receive COVID-19 testing without a referral.

Lines were considerably shorter Tuesday, in part because of the heavy shower activity.

The state Department of Health has advised anyone experiencing mild to moderate flu-like symptoms to stay home and to call ahead before going to a medical facility. Screenings can be done in person or over the phone.

If a person meets the criteria for COVID-19 testing, his or her physician will provide a lab order for the test and collect a sample via swab. The specimen will then be sent to a private or state lab. The remote sites were established to make the collection process more convenient and to allow for proper distancing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the criteria for COVID-19 testing as follows: “If you develop symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider. Older patients and individuals who have severe underlying medical conditions or are immunocompromised should contact their health care provider early, even if their illness is mild. If you have severe symptoms, such as persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips of face, contact your health care provider or emergency room and seek care immediately. Your doctor will determine if you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and whether you should be tested.”

The Queen’s Health Systems, which has made available several remote screening locations, recently introduced a COVID-19 hot­line that provides for remote pre-screening by a registered nurse. If it’s determined that testing is warranted, the person is directed to a specific location that will receive the referral.

“It’s a very short process,” said Queen’s spokeswoman Minna Sugimoto.

Providers have been using travel to an area with confirmed COVID-19 cases as one screening criterion for testing based on the fact that the first cases detected in Hawaii were travel-related. It is not yet known whether that will change now that there are initial indications that the disease is being transmitted within the state.

The Department of Health “does not have evidence of widespread community spread in Hawaii,” DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

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