Despite a rocky start, city’s surge testing program goal expands to 90,000 tests

Surge testing site on Oahu.
Surge testing site on Oahu.(HNN)
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 8:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The surge testing program on Oahu is expanding as leaders work to fix some early missteps with the program.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that the federal government has agreed to expand testing from 60,000 people to 90,000.

The deal comes as the city said that more than 1,700 tests were mislabeled and had to be tossed after contract employees working for the federal government failed to correctly label test vials.

[Read more: More than 1,770 residents will need to retake ‘surge’ tests because of labeling error]

“I think we’ve corrected the problems on the first day. We’ve had a rocky roll out. Everyone has been brought up to speed,” said Caldwell.

But State Rep. Val Okimoto said there were other problems beyond just mislabeling procedures.

On Friday, the Mililani lawmaker said she showed up for testing at the Waipio Soccer Complex, only to find out it was canceled because a food distribution was scheduled at the same time.

Then on Saturday, she went to Mililani District Park, showing up an hour and-a-half early and was told to wait in the drive-through line. She said it turned out to be a walk-in line and she ended up at the back.

“It just seems like a lot of miscommunication and planning that’s not thorough,” said Okimoto.

Caldwell took issue with Okimoto’s account.

“That’s where you get politicians talking stink about the testing program. It helps none of that, does not help their constituents, does not help the community they were all elected to serve,” he said.

Testing 90,000 people over several weeks can be an enormous venture. Part of the reason for the glitches is that the task is so large and was put together with little time.

“Doing something like this is extraordinary and we had four days to do it,” said Caldwell

“I think initially the first day the federal government promised 50 folks on the ground that would roll this out. We had 15 on the first day.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the city would have been better off testing the program first on a smaller scale.

“The better approach would have been to do 1,000 tests with medics, debug it right off the bat at the City and County, do first responders first then move into the larger operations,” he said.

But both he and Caldwell agree that the problems are being worked out.

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