City unveils plan to offer 100,000 coronavirus tests as state reopens

Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 3:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city unveiled a large testing initiative Tuesday, saying it had partnered with the University of Hawaii and community health centers to offer some 100,000 coronavirus tests as the state reopens — and stand up a lab to monitor results for potential hotspots.

“Aggressive, forward-leaning testing on COVID-19, it’s the way we open up,” said Mayor Kirk Caldwell, at a news conference. “We’re now becoming a more open community in terms of the pandemic.”

Caldwell said the initiative would be paid for with $4 million in federal stimulus funds.

The testing initiative includes:

  • 50,000 diagnostic tests, or tests meant to diagnose COVID-19;
  • 49,000 antibody tests, or tests meant to determine whether someone has had COVID-19;
  • and wastewater tests, or tests of wastewater in treatment facilities islandwide that will act as a surveillance system that would conceivably track upticks in COVID-19 in particular communities.

The plan also includes the creation of a lab at the John A. Burns School of Medicine that would not only conduct testing — alongside private labs in Hawaii — but track where surges are being seen.

Partnering with community health centers means the tests will be offered at no cost to the patient.

The mayor has called for more COVID-19 testing for weeks — and has grown frustrated over what he described as pushback from the state Health Department to his plans. Caldwell previously announced an ambitious testing, but that plan was scrapped over DOH concerns with the testing vendor.

On Tuesday, Caldwell said the state had not given its blessing to the new testing effort but added that he doesn’t believe the state will have any concerns.

The testing initiative comes a day after the state outlined a four-phase plan for reopening the economy, and acknowledged that returning to a “new normal” would likely mean an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Under the plan, Hawaii is currently in phase 1. The next phase — set to begin in early June — would see the reopening of much of the kamaaina economy, including “medium-risk” businesses like restaurants.

This story will be updated.

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