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More testing frustration as COVID-19 cases mount in Hawaii

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima / ckojima@staradvertiser.com

    Opponents of the latest Oahu stay-at-home, work-from-home mandate protested outside the Honolulu Hale on Saturday.

  • COURTESY VAL OKIMOTO
                                People stood in a long line for free COVID-19 testing at Mililani District Park on Saturday.

    COURTESY VAL OKIMOTO

    People stood in a long line for free COVID-19 testing at Mililani District Park on Saturday.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA/CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Jeff Pimental was among a group gathered near Honolulu Hale on Saturday to protest Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s new orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA/CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Jeff Pimental was among a group gathered near Honolulu Hale on Saturday to protest Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s new orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Hawaii’s run of triple-digit COVID-19 cases continued Saturday with 310 new infections statewide and three new fatalities — while 6,100 people registered for the fourth day of free testing on Oahu.

Since February, the state has seen 8,139 cases and 62 deaths related to COVID-19.

Honolulu police, firefighters, nurses and others staffed five COVID-19 testing locations across Oahu on Saturday, and there was confusion and frustration at Mililani District Park, said state Rep. Val Okimoto, (R, Mililani-Mililani Mauka-­Waipio Acres).

Okimoto said that while she appreciated the efforts of those staffing the site, “it was frustrating. There was a lot of miscommunication and confusion.”

The original plan was to test 5,000 people per day across Oahu for a total of 60,000 tests. But 6,100 people registered in advance to be tested just on Saturday, according to HFD Capt. Jeff Roache. The advance registrations do not include people who may have showed up without online appointments, which can be made by visiting doIneedacovid19test.com.

At around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Okimoto was one of the first drivers to arrive outside the entrance to Mililani District Park. She said she had made an online appointment to be tested the day before but was turned away from the Waipio Soccer Complex when the testing operation did not open as expected.

>> PHOTOS: Protesters rally against closures

Okimoto did not have an appointment for Mililani District Park but showed up with a printout of her Friday appointment.

She arrived nearly 90 minutes before Saturday’s scheduled start and expected to experience a drive-up nasal swab test, as had occurred at other locations.

Dozens of vehicles began lining up behind Okimoto and a police officer told her to wait in her vehicle until 9 a.m. But closer to 9 a.m. people began walking in and standing in line inside the park while wearing masks and staying apart.

A solo bike officer then began telling drivers to find parking and join the others already standing in line.

After she finally parked, Okimoto then had to go to the back of the line of dozens of people.

She went through the line, got tested and was on her way shortly after 10 a.m. But Okimoto neglected to ask when to expect her results and no one told her.

There was no separate line for people without appointments, she said.

“There were just a lot of inconsistencies.”

The self-administered “surge testing” is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Kaneohe District Park for walk-ins, and at UH West Oahu for drive-thru, Capt. Roache said in an email.

Kaneohe District Park was one of the original testing sites on Wednesday and saw miles of vehicles line up over the course of the day. At one point Mayor Kirk Caldwell said testing had to shut down for 30 to 45 minutes in Kaneohe “to get control and to allow people to get back in line and not cause more traffic and gridlock.”

Even as the first day of testing was occurring, Caldwell told reporters on Wednesday “that we need to do a better job in terms of traffic flow and getting more people in to be tested.”

In contrast, at Kalakaua District Park on Saturday there was almost no wait. Organizers began breaking down tents about 90 minutes before the scheduled close because the line had dwindled to just a few people.

McCully resident Scott Lau showed up without an appointment, registered on site and got tested. Lau said he was planning to get tested on Tuesday or Thursday when the H-3 freeway is scheduled to shut down for surge testing but decided to head to Kalakaua District Park in Kalihi because heard there was little wait.

Lani Simeon, of Salt Lake, was the last person tested at Kalakaua District Park. She arrived with her husband five minutes before the site closed and was done within 10 minutes. She said she decided to get tested because her husband was exposed to a family member who tested positive for COVID-19.

During his Hawaii visit last week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams joined Caldwell on Wednesday and said the nasal swab tests are designed to be less invasive and can be done without a doctor’s order.

“What I would say to the people here is do something that we know you all are famous for, especially compared to mainlanders like myself, and that’s be patient and understand that we will work through this and we’ll continue to improve some of the kinks in the system so that we can deliver a better testing experience to each and everyone of you,” Adams said.

Caldwell has called testing a crucial tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19, along with a beefier staff of contact tracers to notify people who may have been in contact with those infected with COVID-19.

Cases grow

Also Saturday, the Department of Public Safety reported 34 new COVID-19 cases at Oahu Community Correctional Center — 30 inmates and four staff members. An employee at Halawa Correctional Facility who last worked Aug. 17 also tested positive for the virus, DPS said.

There are 79 active cases among inmates and 208 who have recovered; the numbers for employees are 49 active and 15 recovered. No inmates are currently hospitalized, DPS said.

Oahu Transit Services Inc., which operates TheBus and TheHandi-Van, reported Saturday that a driver tested positive and showed symptoms on Wednesday. Officials did not say whether the driver operates a bus or Handi-Van. The driver had been on leave since Monday after a family member previously tested positive.

Protest in Honolulu

At around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, about 80 protesters lined up near Honolulu Hale along South King Street to protest Caldwell’s newest orders designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The protest was advertised online as opposition to the new restrictions, but also as a show of support for President Donald Trump.

Several participants wore red “Make America Great Again” hats and waved flags with Trump’s name on it.

Ollie Grayson, from the Kaimuki area, called the new orders unfair.

“If it was about staying home and the numbers prove that, then that would be one thing. But since we’re talking about excluding small businesses, and big businesses are OK … that’s the real inconsistency,” he said. “Barber shops and salons — they’re closed. And then you have Walmart open … . The inconsistency doesn’t scream ‘pandemic.’”

Michael Donley, from Waipahu, brought his family and said the restrictions hurt those who enjoy the outdoors.

“It’s hard for families like mine,” Donley said. “We work out every day, so it’s kind of hard. Everything that we can do, we have to spend money. But everything that’s free, it’s closed. That doesn’t make sense to me. … It’s kind of different for us to be locked up for something that’s not really going to hurt the people of Hawaii.”

No further details were provided about Saturday’s latest coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu. A total of 53 Hawaii deaths have been on Oahu and eight on Maui, with one a Kauai resident who died on the mainland.

The total number of Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak include 7,410 on Oahu, 318 in Hawaii County, 57 in Kauai County and 330 in Maui County. The total statewide counts also includes 24 Hawaii residents who were diagnosed while out of state.

Some 5,600 infections are considered active cases statewide, with a total of 2,477 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation,” or nearly 30% of those infected. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.

Sixty-seven new release cases — 58 on Oahu, five in Maui County and four on Hawaii island — were reported Saturday.

FREE COVID-19 TESTING

All times 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Today

>> University of Hawaii at Manoa – walk-in

>> UH West Oahu – drive-thru

>> Kaneohe District Park – walk-in

Monday

>> Kapiolani Park – walk-in

>> UH West Oahu – drive-thru

>> Mililani District Park – walk-in

At walk-in sites only, contact any Honolulu Police Officer for Americans with Disability Act assistance.

Source: Honolulu Fire Department

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