Turnout for city’s mass testing program starts strong, but problems already reported

Mayor Caldwell says the city will soon begin using Aloha Stadium as a mass COVID-19 testing site
Updated: Aug. 26, 2020 at 3:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Turnout on the first day of the city’s new mass COVID-19 testing initiative has been strong, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Wednesday ― but not without some logistical issues that resulted in people being turned away from one testing site.

In a press conference at Leeward Community College, one of the mass testing sites made available by the city, Caldwell said that about 3,600 people had signed up to be tested on Oahu on Wednesday.

“We’d love to see entire families come with your bubble whether it’s your blood relatives, your ohana, or your roommates,” he said. “Please come and get tested.”

For the last several weeks, the state has typically reported between 2,000 and 3,000 daily tests.

“The good news is people are getting tested in numbers like never before,” the mayor said. “As we test during these two weeks, we find out where COVID-19 is and where it isn’t and how to attack it.”

The federally-backed program was announced Tuesday, with the U.S. surgeon general on-hand, in hopes of giving health experts more insight into the virus’ spread.

Mayor Caldwell said the city and state were planing to significantly ramp up testing — conducting 60,000 tests in 12 days — in an effort to be able to reopen safely. Officials said authorities will also use the time to bolster contact tracing programs and improve quarantine and isolation measures.

But the vaunted new surge testing program has already been hit with several issues.

New Oahu testing efforts come as the island prepares for another “stay-at-home” order, which will begin Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

At least some of the people who signed up to be tested in Kaneohe on Wednesday were turned away in what the mayor said were ‘issues on logistics.'

“I was scheduled at 12, and I just went by there and the police were turning people away,” said one individual intending to get tested today, whose name is being withheld for privacy reasons. “The doctors canceled all the appointments, which is weird, because we all had appointments to go there.”

“In Kaneohe, we did shut down for a short period of time to get control and get people back in line and not cause traffic,” Mayor Caldwell explained. “It’s now open again. We want to make sure people’s health and safety are protected as they come into the site.”

Vice Adm. Adams, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, says situations like the one seen Wednesday are not uncommon ― or meant to be discouraging.

“It takes a lot to stand up these testing sites logistically. I consider it a success that so many people have embraced the idea of testing,” he said. “We will continue to improve some of the kinks in the system.”

In another major development, Mayor Caldwell said Gov. David Ige had granted the city permission to use Aloha Stadium as a mass testing site. The stadium has previously been used as a drive-through food distribution location.

“Aloha Stadium is going to be in the mix, and probably going to be a big part of the mix,” the mayor said.

This story will be updated.

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