HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As part of its disaster plan, Queen’s Medical Center set up a COVID-19 screening operation in a tent outside its emergency department.
The idea: Try as hard as possible to stop the spread of infection.
As the number of new COVID-19 cases has continued to decline, that tent has gone largely unused in recent days. And on Monday, another positive sign that the threat is subsiding in Hawaii: The tent was taken down altogether.
Hospital leaders say the decision was made because of lower patient volumes, fewer people getting tested and zero positive cases over two weeks.
“We do have the sense that the pandemic here on Oahu is subsiding,” said Dr. Daniel Cheng, medical director of Queen’s Medical Center Emergency Department.
He says the infection rate peaked the week of March 29 and more than 1,000 patients were screened inside the tent.
“I want to say it’s a sign of victory. I think it’s a sign that our planning our perseverance has come through being one of the lowest states in the country of having infections per capita as well as deaths per capita,” he said.
Queen's Health System's COO Jason Chang says elective surgeries in its hospitals are coming back gradually this month, but the financial impact has been deep.
“We have canceled or reduced our surgeries by 58% so it’s pretty significant and I think the financial impact to date has been $40 to $45 million,” Chang said.
"I think all the hospitals have struggled," he added.
Queen’s says it will still conduct screenings and all patients undergoing surgery will be tested for COVID-19. If there’s any positive cases, the triage tents will go back up to prepare for a potential second wave of infection.
The triage tent at the hospital’s West Oahu campus will remain open.
Meanwhile, Hawaii Pacific Health is offering antibody testing for all of its 7,200 employees.
It's a blood test that can show if a person was exposed to COVID-19, but it doesn't show an active infection.
"We know that our employees are worried as well. They are concerned. They've been caring for patients with COVID-19 and so they want to know as well," said Dr. Melinda Ashton,
"As an employers we want to know what is the baseline rate among the population of our employees, what is their rate of having been exposed to this infection," she added.
Ashton says the antibody test is simply for information and a positive reading doesn’t mean you change your behaviors like good hygiene and social distancing.
She says the hospital choose the blood draw test through Clinical Labs of Hawaii because it’s more reliable than the rapid finger prick tests that are also available in the market.