Hawaii mobile virus testing van reaches underserved areas

Hawaii mobile virus testing van reaches underserved areas
File photo of COVID-19 testing in Hawaii. (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — A mobile unit of health professionals in Hawaii County is taking coronavirus testing on the road, providing screening to communities in underserved areas.

Premier Medical Group has operated a mobile testing van in areas around Hawaii island since November, in addition to testing arrivals at the Hilo and Kona airports, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Wednesday.

“We wanted to (try) coming to rural communities for testing, which will be helpful when we start distributing vaccines,” said Dr. Kaohimanu Dang Akiona, Premier Medical Group Hawaii County medical director.

The company takes the van to test communities in North Kohala, Waimea or Waikoloa on Mondays. Testing is done on Tuesdays in Volcano, Mountain View, Hawaii Paradise Park or Kalapana, with the testing team planning regular visits to Volcano and to other locations on a rotating schedule.

Premier travels to Honokaa, Naalehu, Pahala or Hawaiian Ocean View Estates on Fridays to serve communities in Hamakua and Kau.

The mobile testing team also has coordinated testing during food drops hosted by The Food Basket-Hawaii Island’s Food Bank.

“This is our way of supporting people who are already out and may need testing,” Akiona said. “We also want to support the workers and volunteers at (The) Food Basket in case they need testing as well.”

Tuesday was mobile unit’s first visit to Mountain View, 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Hilo, where about 40 people were tested.

“I think there’s a lot to be said about going to people in their community instead of waiting for them to come to you,” Akiona said. “I think consistently showing up somewhere helps people and makes them feel seen.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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