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Hawaii’s coronavirus testing capability to be cut in half after mainland company reduces supplies

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JUNE 27
                                Dr. Scott Miscovich, left, of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, working with his technicians at a COVID-19 testing site.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JUNE 27

    Dr. Scott Miscovich, left, of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, working with his technicians at a COVID-19 testing site.

UPDATE: Thursday, 12:50 p.m.

Roche Diagnostics, the mainland supplier of Diagnostic Laboratory Services, said today that it has not cut off the supplies of chemicals needed for the Hawaii company to run coronavirus tests locally, but it has temporarily reduced the volume of test kits due to a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. Read the full story here.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Wednesday

One of Hawaii’s largest COVID-19 testing laboratories has been cut off from its mainland supplier of chemicals needed to continue to run tests locally due to a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

Diagnostic Laboratory Services will no longer receive reagents and other supplies from Roche Diagnostics, one of the largest manufacturers of equipment and supplies for COVID-19 testing.

The company has been forced to direct their supplies to hospitals in states where the intensive care units are being overrun. Many mainland states are recording thousands of new daily cases, pushing coronavirus infections past 3 million in the U.S.

“As a result, DLS’ capacity for COVID testing has been reduced from 800 tests per day to 250 tests per day and will only be locally testing priority clinical testing in the immediate future on island,” president Mark Wasielewski, said Wednesday adding the company would be able to surge capacity to 2,000 tests per day if it were able to obtain reagents.

“Non-priority testing will be sent to mainland laboratories that may take up to 10 days to perform tests. We are fortifying our other COVID testing platforms and are looking into new platforms to bring in-house to boost our testing capabilities as quickly as possible.”

Wasielewski said he is “personally devastated that we cannot help with more testing as the demand and needs are rising in our state” as major labs on the mainland are “all in need of the same supplies.”

Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is leading broad testing efforts in the islands, told the Honolulu City Council that the state’s testing capacity has been cut in half to about 2,500 tests per day from 5,000. But state Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said in actuality, DLS was performing just 25% of the state’s 1,200 total daily tests.

The DOH State Laboratories Division will pick up tests DLS is no longer able to handle for those at risk for serious disease, including the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, she said.

“Our emergency capacity has gone down and that is concerning, but we’re not at a critical stage as many states are,” Okubo said. “As this national shortage occurs because of surges of cases in many states, it will affect other states because the manufacturers of course will need to prioritize to fill their orders.”

>> RELATED: Hawaii adds 23 new coronavirus cases as statewide total rises to 1,094

The setback comes as the state grapples with whether to lift quarantine restrictions on trans-Pacific tourists who test negative for COVID-19 and as public schools prepare to open to thousands of students in August. Gov. David Ige met with the county mayors today to discuss whether or not to proceed with a modified quarantine process for out-of-state travelers on Aug. 1.

The remaining labs, including Clinical Labs of Hawaii, are working together to address the state’s testing needs, especially for the most critical, hospitalized patients, Miscovich said.

“We don’t want to scare the public. We still are able to address our testing needs currently in the state and plans are being made to increase our capacity,” he said. “Unfortunately, this may cause the return of the results to be multiple days instead of the 24-hour turnaround.”

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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