On Thursday morning the line for free COVID-19 testing at the city’s Mobile Lab at the Honolulu airport zigzagged a long way beyond the outside corridor, with some waiting in line for at least an hour and a half.
By afternoon that line grew smaller, but stories of the long lines and hours of waiting for COVID-19 testing all around Oahu are now being shared, reflecting a spike in demand as the delta variant continues to surge statewide.
On Nextdoor someone said they waited at Adventist Health Castle’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site for 2-1/2 hours. On Twitter another resident shared a photo of the line of cars at a drive-thru testing site at Kaiser in Mapunapuna.
The state Department of Health is aware of the spike in demand for COVID tests, according to spokesman Brooks Baehr, and is working to address it.
“People are seeing this dramatic rise in cases,” said Baehr. “They are aware of the threat posed by the delta variant, and they are doing the responsible thing, which is if you think you’ve been exposed or you’re experiencing symptoms, you should get tested. We are certainly aware of the demand. We want people to get tested, and we are continuing to ramp up.”
On Thursday the Health Department reported one new coronavirus-related death and 549 new confirmed and probable infections statewide, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 546 fatalities and 48,397 cases.
The death was of an Oahu man in his 30s with underlying conditions who had been hospitalized. The Health Department is now releasing data at 9 a.m. daily instead of at noon.
Lisa and Lee Peer drove to the airport from Waianae because they were experiencing flu-like symptoms and wanted to get tested, but everything near them was already booked.
Lisa Peer said she made several calls, including to her own doctor’s office, and there were no openings available for rapid testing until Saturday. She wanted to get tested before returning to work. He helps care for his mother twice a week and wanted to make sure he was clear before his next visit on Saturday.
Honolulu’s Mobile Lab is offering free COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Diamond Head Tour Group area of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
Mobile Lab Director Kelsey Kohagura said there has been an uptick in demand from residents all over Oahu the past few weeks and that he has seen more families with kids coming in for testing since the start of school. He estimated about 1,100 were tested Wednesday, with the same level expected Thursday. On the busiest days about 1,300 are tested.
What some may not be aware of is that there is a separate line available for City and County of Honolulu workers, first responders and kupuna age 60 and older.
Those interested in getting tested at the Mobile Lab — free to all Oahu residents — should pre-register under the city prepaid section online at oahucitypass.lumisight.com, and will then receive a QR code. The lab is offering PCR midturbinate tests that provide results within six hours.
“If they are registered, things go a lot smoother,” said Kohagura.
The Mobile Lab is run through an agreement with the National Kidney Foundation of Hawai‘i, and had recently been extended to this Saturday. Whether it gets extended again will be determined today, said Kohagura.
On Thursday the Health Department announced it would offer free COVID-19 testing at Aloha Stadium four days a week, starting Saturday, through the rest of the month.
The testing at Aloha Stadium is being offered in partnership with the Honolulu Fire Department and Hawaii National Guard, and will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In addition, Baehr said the Health Department continues to offer pop-up clinics offering rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 at places like Kapolei High School.
The clinic held there Wednesday also resulted in a long line, and though it was available for walk-ins, officials had to stop accepting them after the 100th person. Two more clinics will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. at Kapolei High School on Monday and Wednesday.
Earlier this week the department set up a test site finder link at hawaiicovid19.com/testing-isolation-quar antine where one can also search for availability at CVS’ Longs Drugs, Health Mart and Walgreens.
Baehr said the Health Department is ordering more tests — both PCR and rapid antigen — to meet growing demands. It is also asking the federal government to increase capacity for testing at local pharmacies.
A search of CVS availability Thursday evening found appointments booked for most locations near Honolulu through this weekend, with the earliest available at the Liliha and Aina Haina locations Wednesday afternoon.
CVS’ daily COVID-19 testing volume is significantly ahead of the average daily volume in the second quarter, according to a CVS spokeswoman. Also, COVID -19 home test kits are a top-selling item at CVS stores.
City officials said four personnel from the Honolulu Fire Department are pitching in at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center to help with the surge in demand for testing along Oahu’s west coast. HFD will send up to 10 personnel, as needed, to help at the center on weekdays.
Contact tracers at the health center are finding the highest rates of transmission since the pandemic began and that many people with COVID-19 seem to be getting sicker, and much more rapidly, according to Jake Schafer, director of infection control and employee health.
The average age of people testing positive is 27, he said, and 30% of cases at the center are pediatric.
The Leeward side, including Waianae, Makaha, Nanakuli and Maili, has accounted for more than 450 new cases in the past 14 days and nearly 2,800 total cases, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.
OAHU TESTING SITES
>> Honolulu’s Mobile Lab is offering free COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at the Diamond Head Tour Group area of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport through at least Saturday. Register in the city prepaid section at oahucitypass.lumisight.com.
>> Starting on Saturday, Aloha Stadium will offer free COVID-19 testing 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
>> Find more options at hawaiicovid19.com/testing-isolation-quar antine.
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