comscore Kokua Line: Don’t leave quarantine to get tested for COVID-19 at surge site, Honolulu County says | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Kokua Line: Don’t leave quarantine to get tested for COVID-19 at surge site, Honolulu County says

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Question: If I am in the two-week quarantine because I am a resident having returned from the mainland, can I take the COVID-19 test at one of the surge- testing sites, and if negative, be cleared from my quarantine?

Answer: No. “If someone is already in a two-week quarantine, they are instructed to remain in quarantine and not leave their home unless they need medical care,” said Alexander Zannes, a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

COVID-19 testing alone does not count as medical care, he said.

Hawaii residents in travel-related quarantine are instructed to monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. Even those who end up needing medical care are urged to call their health care provider first, and if they must summon 911 to alert the dispatcher of their status, according to instructions from the state Department of Health, which you can read at

Bottom line: People shouldn’t leave quarantine to get tested at a surge site, Zannes said.

Q: Isn’t it a virtual certainty that Honolulu’s daily positive results will remain high, even during the lockdown (at least initially) because so many more people are being tested during the surge- testing effort? Previously, only about 2,000 people a day were being tested (and sometimes way less than that), so a jump to 5,000 a day pretty much guarantees that there will be a jump in the raw number of positives. It seems like the percentage (not the raw number) would be more important indicator for when it’s safe to reopen.

A: So many readers asked this or similar questions Thursday that we asked Mayor Kirk Caldwell to clarify what criteria will be used to decide whether or not to extend Honolulu County’s second COVID-19 lockdown, which began Thursday and is effective through Sept. 9. Here is his emailed response:

“The current plan is to keep the Stay at Home/Work from Home Order in place for two weeks. We will be evaluating on a daily basis the status of the health-care system, contact tracing capabilities, test positivity rate, case counts, and other factors, such as patterns of transmission (Are they in clusters or unlinked cases? What populations are being affected?) to determine best course of action. We have not and we will not set a threshold of a specific number of cases as the condition for lifting or continuing the Stay at Home Order. However, at a rate of 250 cases per day, or 1,000 positive cases every four days, there will continue to be significant strain both on contact tracing and isolation efforts, as well as hospital capacity. Additionally, the test positivity rate is only one of the factors we evaluate to determine what disease transmission mitigation measures we take, such as the Stay at Home Order. The ‘surge’ testing program allows for anyone regardless of symptom or exposure to be tested for free of charge. We therefore expect the test positivity rate to be lower than what we are used to seeing through our ‘normal’ testing that occurs across the state. The test positivity rate by itself does not tell us the full story of how we are doing here.

“Accounting for an incubation period of two to 14 days, it will take one to two weeks before we start seeing benefits of the Stay at Home Order or any other intervention. Added to this is the fact that we are conducting more testing than before, so we do expect to see more cases reported initially. This is why we will be carefully discussing with our partners in health care and public health to evaluate multiple factors to determine whether or not to extend the Stay at Home order.”

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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