The mainland supplier of one of Hawaii’s largest COVID-19 testing laboratories said today that it has not cut off the supplies of chemicals needed to continue to run tests locally, but has temporarily reduced the volume of test kits due to a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
On Wednesday, Honolulu-based Diagnostic Laboratory Services said its capacity for COVID-19 testing has decreased to 250 tests from 800 a day because of drastic cuts in access to reagents and other testing supplies by Roche Diagnostics — one of the largest manufacturers of equipment and supplies for COVID-19 testing. In an emergency, the lab would be able to increase capacity to 2,000 tests a day if it were able to obtain the reagents.
“There have just been temporary reductions in the volume of test kits Roche can provide to DLS due to shifting allocation to areas of outbreaks where there is a critical testing need,” said Michael Weist, a spokesman for Roche Diagnostics Corp. “Since the start of the global pandemic, demand for diagnostic tests and the instruments to conduct them has outpaced supply.”
The trend is continuing as cases surge across the United States, but Roche is committed to supplying as many test kits as it can to the local laboratory, he said.
“We allocate limited testing supplies to sites where and when they are needed most,” Weist added. “Sometimes this requires shifting some of our test supply to hospitals and laboratories in geographic regions that experience large-scale community spread of infection, in order to reach the most patients in need. We will continue to support Diagnostic Laboratory Services and the state of Hawaii.”
For now, DLS can only do priority testing locally. Non-priority tests will be sent to mainland labs, which could take up to 10 days before results are confirmed.
Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is leading broad testing efforts in the islands, told the Honolulu City Council Wednesday that the state’s testing capacity has been cut in half to about 2,500 tests a day from 5,000. But state Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said that DLS was actually performing just 25% of the state’s 1,200 total daily tests.
The department’s State Laboratories Division said it will pick up the tests DLS is no longer able to handle for those at risk of serious disease, including the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions. DLS is also working with other Hawaii labs to “keep as much testing as we can on island until we can be resupplied.”