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Kokua Line: Drive-thru COVID-19 tests don’t require patient to have symptoms

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Question: I see there will be two city-sponsored drive-thru COVID-19 testings this weekend. How does one qualify to get one of these tests? Do you have to be symptomatic or can you show up “just because,” on a whim? Can anyone go or do you need specific health insurance? Are they free? Can Kaiser members go?

Answer: No, you don’t have to have symptoms of COVID-19, but neither should you show up on a whim, with no risk factors whatsoever. At the testing site, individuals will be screened by a medical professional, who will decide whether a test is warranted. Everyone will be assessed, but not all will be tested.

However, with the novel coronavirus now relatively widespread on Oahu, the bar for testing is lower — it’s likely that many people who show up will meet at least one of the criteria, which include having symptoms, exposure to someone suspected of having COVID-19, recent travel or contact with tourists, or being at high risk of complications from the disease.

“With 40% of positive cases being asymptomatic, we know you don’t have to show symptoms to have and to spread the disease. We need to be testing as many people as possible,” said Rida Cabanilla, owner of Kalihi Kai Urgent Care, which will offer drive-thru testing Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Geiger Community Park in Ewa Beach.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, founder and president of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, agreed, saying, “You don’t get tested on a whim, but with community spread as high as it is now,” it’s likely that most people seeking a test will meet risk-factor criteria. His group will run Sunday’s drive-thru site, at Kakaako Waterfront Park, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The PCR testing at both sites will be by nasal swab. Patients must self-quarantine until they receive their test result, assuming the result is negative, and longer if it is positive.

As for the cost, testing will be offered without charge for those without insurance, according to a news release from the city.

Patients who have health insurance will be asked to provide their insurance card for billing. Most Hawaii and mainland health-care plans should be accepted, with some exceptions. You asked about Kaiser: All Kaiser plans will be accepted at the Kakaako drive-thru, Miscovich said, while only Kaiser Quest, Kaiser Added Choice and Kaiser Medicare will be accepted at the Ewa Beach event, said Cabanilla.

Other readers have asked whether children will be tested, and the answer is yes, at both locations. “We want kids to be tested; we’re seeing more cases among young children,” Miscovich said.

People on foot also can be tested at these drive-thru events, but will be seen in turn, not as part of the vehicle lineup.

Participants should follow the posted signs to the testing areas.

People should arrive wearing facial masks and keep a safe distance, which is an advantage of the drive-thru process, which keeps people who may be carrying the virus in their cars.

Besides answering the screening questions, participants must provide their names and contact numbers so that the test results can be provided to them. “Generally this has been relatively fast, but with recent reports of testing kit issues, the turn-around may be longer,” said Brandi Higa, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Widespread community testing is key to the “test, trace, isolate” method of thwarting the spread of the novel coronavirus. So many cases have popped up on Oahu, without adequate contact tracing, that the only way to halt transmission now is to shut the state back down and keep people away from each other, Miscovich said. “We’re going to have to get back to where we were in March and April. We need about a month, two cycles of the virus, to get this back down to a manageable level,” he said.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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