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Oahu residents whose jobs put them at risk of contracting coronavirus can get tested free

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                City and County of Honolulu on Friday announced a drive-thru testing site in the Kakaako Makai Gateway Park to check patients for COVID-19.

    DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    City and County of Honolulu on Friday announced a drive-thru testing site in the Kakaako Makai Gateway Park to check patients for COVID-19.

Oahu residents whose jobs put them at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and are showing symptoms can take advantage of a free, drive-thru testing service in Kakaako today.

Hotel employees, restaurant workers, flight attendants, retail workers and first responders are among those being targeted if they are showing symptoms synonymous with COVID-19 and are at risk of being exposed to the new coronavirus because their jobs may have put them in contact with someone testing positive.

The program takes place at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is leading the effort, expects 1,400 to 1,600 people to show up at the testing site but anticipates only about one-quarter of them will actually qualify to take the nasal-swabbing test.

“We’re finding that it’s a penetration rate of about 22-26% of those who drive up that actually get qualified,” Miscovich said.

“We’re going to test everyone who is at high risk,” Miscovich said, adding that he has a backup team prepared to join the effort if there is an overflow.

Those who show up will be subjected to a preliminary screening process at a station set up at Kakaako Makai Gateway Park on Ilalo Street. If determined to be a potential positive case, they will then be directed into the parking lot at nearby Kaka­ako Waterfront Park where they will be swabbed for samples, Miscovich said.

Medical professionals helping out will be wearing “spacesuit-like” personal protective gear during the swabbing, he said.

Folks who actually are swabbed are required to self-quarantine for three to five days, or whenever their test results return.

“We want to make sure that if you have those symptoms that you’re taking care of yourself,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

What happens today will be closely monitored because the city and Miscovich want to see the drive-thru testing program set up elsewhere on-island, Caldwell said.

Today’s effort is focused on helping the urban Honolulu residents most at risk, he said. “We could look at other sites, whether it be at Waimanalo, Haleiwa or Waianae … but it’s going to be depend on the medical profession and whether they have the sufficient kits and the staff.”

“We are going to look at demand, and we will be ready to try to set up locations,” Miscovich said, adding that the program is getting help from the Hawaii Community Foundation and could use the help of other philanthropic groups and individuals.

Miscovich is urging those retired from the health care industry to volunteer and assist with testing efforts.

A similar drive-thru initiative is taking place Monday in Kona, Miscovich said.

City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson, who approached Caldwell about Miscovich’s initiative, said that when the program was set up on the Windward side last weekend, dozens of people were tested.

Portions of Ilalo Street are scheduled to close during program hours, city Deputy Transportation Services Director Jon Nouchi said. Those who wish to be screened are asked to drive into the area from the Ward Avenue-Ala Moana Boulevard intersection.

“I actually believe that the only way we’re going to get out of this and get to the other side is through testing,” Caldwell said.

In related news, Caldwell defended the city’s decision to continue removing the homeless from city sidewalks under stored-property, sidewalk nuisance and sit-lie ordinances in the face of the outbreak.

Caldwell said if the city lets up on its enforcement, larger numbers of homeless will gather close together and create “a very, very dangerous health problem” because of the potential for one person to test positive for COVID-19 and spread it to others.

In keeping with that philosophy, the city announced earlier in the week the establishment of a 26-unit facility in Iwilei where homeless individuals who test positive can stay until they recover.

The American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii chapter, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and others issued a news release Friday urging Caldwell to stop homeless sweeps during the outbreak.

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