Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell this afternoon announced that the city would be offering free community testing at the Waikiki Shell and Ko Olina through the end of November.
The program will use a surplus of 28,000 test kits from the federal government that was originally used to conduct surge testing back in August, he said, with a focus on those who work in the visitor industry, particularly as out-of-state travelers return to Oahu.
“As we open up as we get back to a more open way of life we want to get an accurate picture of where the virus is, and surveillance testing is how we get to that,” Caldwell said.
Hotel workers can conveniently visit the test sites, Caldwell said, and return numerous times to get tested again through Nov. 30. The testing is available to anyone who is interested.
The news comes as the state Health Department today reported 52 new COVID-19 cases for Oahu, bringing the isle’s total to 12,669. Statewide, there were 102 new infections and three more deaths due to COVID-19.
With continued vigilance, testing, and contact tracing, Caldwell said he was confident that Oahu could move from Tier 2, which went into effect today, to Tier 3, which requires new cases to remain at a 7-day average of 20 to 49 news cases and a positivity rate of 1 to 2.49% for two consecutive weeks.
The test kits involve a simple, nasal swab that is self-administered under monitoring by trained staff, and the results are sent via email in about three to five days.
During August’s surge testing events, Caldwell said about 62,000 individuals on Oahu were tested.
Gemma Weinstein, president of Unite Here Local 5, welcomed the news on behalf of hundreds of hotel workers the union represents.
Weinstein said workers have been asking their hotel employers to provide testing for hotel workers since the start of the pandemic in March.
“And till now, we’re still waiting for them to agree,” she said. “We will ask the hotels to step up to the plate and do the right thing for the workers.”
After Nov. 30, she said the union will ask hotels to continue providing regular testing for workers to help control the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Worker safety is community safety, she added.
The free community testing will be available at Waikiki Shell, 2805 Monsarrat Avenue, or Ko Olina Resort Center, 92-1047 Olani St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays through Nov. 30, for visitors, hotel workers and residents, and anyone else who is interested.
The city’s goal is to conduct 500 tests at each of the two sites daily.
“We want to make sure we’re using them to protect our residents, particularly those that work in our visitor industry,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said as of Wednesday, an estimated 7,902 people are currently in quarantine on Oahu. Of that total, he said 2,552 are visitors and 5,350 are residents.
He said he would be meeting with Hawaii Tourism Authority and other visitor industry officials to discuss how they will ensure tourists are educated about the rules here.
On a recent visit to the airport at Honolulu, Caldwell said he found no information on Oahu’s COVID-19 rules being shared with visitors regarding quarantine requirements and mask-wearing, or not socially gathering in groups larger than five.
There should be brochures upon arrival at the airport, he said, as well as at hotel check-in and in their hotel rooms, and in-house TV programs should be sharing information in hotel rooms, as well, he said. All travel vendors should also be doing their part in sharing information.
“We look at our hotels as our partners, and we need to work closely together to make sure people are compliant,” he said.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at just one Waikiki hotel could potentially affect the entire industry, he added.
He urged everyone to stay vigilant and to follow the rules, particularly with Halloween around the corner. He reminded residents that “a healthy community equates to a healthy economy, and you can’t have one without the other.”
Visitors and residents can sign up for the free COVID-19 test at doineedacovid19test.com.
Watch the briefing via the video above, or go to Mayor Caldwell’s Facebook page.