HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - About 106,000 people in Hawaii have been tested for coronavirus, so far. With that, Hawaii has a positive result rate of 1.3 percent.
But with limited testing capacity, state officials hope a new, FDA approved method will increase the number of test available, and who gets one.
The new method is called pooling.
It was being considered for some time now, but it wasn’t approved by the FDA until Saturday. Hawaii health officials say it’s a game changer in the way samples are tested by labs.
Nasal swabs would still be taken from patients as normal. But what’s different is what happens when those swabs make it to the lab.
“The lab is allowed to take 4 little aliquots of whats in that tube, mix them into one tube, and run that one single tube,” Dr. Scott Miscovich said.
“The theory is if the whole tube comes back negative, then all four of those samples are considered negative.”
But if it comes back positive, the samples will need to be re-run individually to find the one — or more — sample with the virus.
The new method allows for up to 4 patients to be cleared at once, if all are negative. Lt. Gov. Josh Green says it will help get the state to where it needs to be in terms of testing.
“I think this could be very well the solution we were waiting for,” he said Sunday. “I felt for a long time we needed to increase our capacity to over 10,000 tests a day to restore society in the way we need to.”
Lt. Gov. Green says right now, the state has a maximum capacity to test about 5,300 samples a day, but the most they’ve done was 2,300.
He said pooling will open up tests to low-risk individuals, rather than the symptomatic patients tests were previously reserved for. This means teachers, residents and first responders may be eligible.
“With tests being in shorter supply, and the re-agents being in shorter supply nationally, this will be great,” Green said. ”I’m hoping to multiply our capacity of tests very significantly, maybe by 4 times.
Dr. Miscovich added, “This is a nice thing that we should be looking for since we have a challenge for the amount of testing supplies we have in the state.”
State health leaders say they’re still finalizing the protocols for pooling but say it could be ready to go in Hawaii by the end of the month.