COVID-19 Testing Capacity Up to Total of 3,620 Tests Daily in All Four Counties

In-state COVID-19 testing capabilities have been a top concern throughout the pandemic, but an assessment of statewide testing capacity this week shows there are ample supplies of tests that can be conducted in Hawai‘i. 

It means Hawai‘i residents can breathe a sigh of relief. Healthcare providers can now consider testing patients whom they suspect may be infected to ensure rapid identification of cases. This is a shift in the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s earlier guidance that required specific symptoms and epidemiological criteria before testing.

In the past three weeks, the number of sites conducting tests has increased from five to 11, and testing is now available in all four counties, including on all of the Neighbor Islands.

One of the critical requirements for the state to confidently and safely continue its path to fully reopen is readily accessible COVID-19 tests for all who meet recommended testing criteria, with test results available within 48 hours.

According to data compiled by DOH, as of Monday, May 18, Hawai‘i has more than 38,300 tests on hand for COVID-19 tests and is performing an average of 690 tests each day, with test results available the same day or by the next day. The maximum turnaround time is three days. The number of staff trained to perform the tests has also doubled, jumping from 68 to 135 within the past month.

“The compilation of data provides a realistic snapshot of the state’s overall testing capacity,” said Dr. Edward Desmond, State Laboratories Division (SLD) administrator, who compiled the data. “If necessary, the state has the capability to cumulatively ramp up to 3,620 tests a day, and this number is expected to significantly increase over the next three weeks.

In addition to the SLD, 10 laboratories (three public health and seven private sector) and healthcare facilities on O‘ahu and the neighbor islands currently are testing collected specimens. Private laboratories include Clinical Labs of Hawaii, Diagnostic Laboratory Services, and S&G Labs in Kona. Healthcare facilities include Kaiser Permanente and Adventist Health Castle.

Desmond added Hawai‘i initially sent tests to mainland labs to determine if individuals were COVID-19 positive and there was a backlog and results could take up to a week to receive.

“As a state, we’ve come a long way in a relatively short time to become more self-sufficient,” he said. “We initially had several hundred specimens waiting to be tested at mainland labs. That number has dropped to just 60 outstanding, untested specimens because our need to send samples to the mainland has been greatly reduced because of our in-state capabilities.”

‘Resilience Hubs’ Distribute Protective Equipment Donations

To help protect essential workers who provide mental health services and their patients, the Hawai‘i Department of Health and the Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) are coordinating the distribution of donated personal protective equipment (PPE) across the state. So far, more than 12,000 surgical masks, among other items, have been donated to one of three drop-off and distribution sites, or “resilience hubs,” on Oʻahu.

“We’d like to thank the community for their generous spirit and outpouring of Aloha. The donations allow our providers to safely ensure a continuity of care while keeping our staff and clients protected,” said Eddie Mersereau, Department of Health Deputy Director of Behavioral Health.

Donated PPE are being used by behavioral health and homelessness service providers working across the state, including at the Hawai‘i State Hospital and the Temporary Quarantine and Isolation Center on O‘ahu. A partnership with the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute will begin establishing additional resilience hubs on Neighbor Islands to receive donated PPE.

Donations of homemade and unopened store-bought PPE such as masks, goggles, gloves and face shields continue to be welcomed. In addition, the resilience hubs are now accepting sanitation supplies including bleach, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, and toilet paper.

To date, the resilience hubs have received:

  • 12,153 Unused and Unopened Surgical Masks
  • 8,735 Pairs of Disposable Gloves
  • 7,069 N95 Masks
  • 288 Homemade Masks
  • 590 Unused Medical Gowns
  • 204 Homemade or Locally Manufactured Face Shields
  • 315 Pairs of Unused Eyewear or Goggles

Yet, thousands more are needed. The resilience hubs continue to welcome donations from the public. Three non-profits are hosting the resilience hubs: KROC Center in Kapolei, KEY Project in Kahalu‘u and YMCA in Kalihi. Items may be dropped off at the following times and locations:

KROC Center in Kapolei

91-3257 Kualakai Parkway, ʻEwa Beach, HI 96706

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 682-5505

KEY Project

47-200 Waiheʻe Road, Kāneʻohe, HI 96744

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 239-5777

Kalihi YMCA

1335 Kalihi St., Honolulu, HI 96819

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 848-2494

Behavioral health and homelessness service providers may continue to submit requests for PPE using the Support & Supply form on the Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) website. Walk-in requests for PPE are not being accepted at this time. Orders are being completed in phases and pick-ups are coordinated directly with providers.

The BHHSURG is a partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Health, the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services, the University of Hawaiʻi, and the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute. Funds for the effort were donated from BlackSand Capital into the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund, with a match from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. In addition, a significant donation was made by the Tzu Chi Foundation.

To learn more about this initiative or for other ways to provide community support during this time, please visit https://bhhsurg.hawaii.gov/.