About 260 people were tested Saturday for coronavirus at a drive-thru screening site at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Complex, one of two pop-up screening events this weekend on Oahu.
A second screening will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at Kakaako Waterfront Park, where another 2,000 people are expected to show up for a free test, said Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is leading the effort.
Miscovich said he was equipped with 1,000 test kits for this weekend. About 1,200 people showed up for a test Saturday, but only those that met certain criteria — such as virus symptoms with a history of travel or contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus — got tested.
Also Saturday, the state Department of Health said the tally for coronavirus cases increased by 29, including one minor, bringing the total COVID-19 cases in Hawaii to 151. The Health Department also warned about the dangers of using non- approved antimalarial drugs for treating coronavirus.
The city, which is working with Miscovich on drive-thru testing events, said the two this weekend were being offered to increase the number of screenings and testings for Oahu residents.
“Each week there is a much better understanding of what the symptomatology is and people understand how serious this disease is,” Miscovich said.
Miscovich, an internist who leads Premier Medical Group Hawaii, said broad testing of the community will help keep the virus from spreading and there are enough kits to continue with such testing.
“There is a massive misconception that is being perpetuated through all sources that there is a massive shortage of testing materials and swabs,” he said. “That is not true” in Hawaii, he said.
He said he spoke with the presidents of two private labs — Diagnostic Laboratory Services and Clinical Labs of Hawaii — and found the state is “well-stocked” with 10 to 14 days of testing materials. He said the biggest risk is someone going untested in a typical multigenerational Hawaii family and spreading the disease unnecessarily.
“We need to test,” he said. “There are enough supplies.”
He estimated about 25 to 30 people at Saturday’s event will test positive for coronavirus, judging from their symptoms and travel history. The nasal swabs taken from 265 people Saturday will be sent to the mainland for testing, with a turnaround of at least three days for a result.
A week earlier in Kakaako, Miscovich’s team tested 405 people at a similar event and only about half of those tests had results returned by Saturday, with at least five being positive, Miscovich said.
Also Saturday, Miscovich began a pilot program using a new fingertip blood test to screen for the presence of coronavirus, which can return a result in 10 minutes. The test checks for two antibodies that develop in response to the coronavirus, indicating its presence rather than checking for a viral load as the nasal swab does. After a blood test, the patient still needs a nasal swab to confirm the presence of the virus. Miscovich said the test has initial fast-track federal approval and up to 95% accuracy for predicting the virus’ presence.
At the Waipio site Saturday, a flight attendant was given the blood test and found to be positive. She was told her family needed to be tested, and eight family members from multiple families and three generations went to the test site.
Natalie, who declined to give her last name, said the flight attendant is married to her ex-husband, who shares custody with her of their three children. Natalie said she and her children were tested with the nasal swab.
Paul Michael Hayes, of Mililani, said he is the flight attendant’s husband, and she went to be tested Saturday because she had lost her sense of taste despite a lack of other symptoms. In addition, she left a message with her primary care manager and hadn’t heard back for two days.
The state said as of Saturday there have been 7,000 laboratory tests from private labs, military facilities and the state lab, and only 151 of those tested positive.
The state appeared to be falling behind on its program to test random flu samples from around the state for coronavirus. Bruce Anderson, director of the state Health Department, said about a week ago that the testing program allowed the state to stretch its supply of test kits from the federal government and helped the state get an idea of the coronavirus’ spread in the community.
In announcing the program on March 10, the state said it planned to test samples from about 200 individuals every week. On Saturday, more than two weeks after the program’s announcement, the state had tested only 350 samples. All were negative.