Leaders push state, city to open more COVID testing sites amid growing demand

The state said it is planning more testing in public schools and the City Council wants to use $10 million in federal funds to reopen clinics.
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:28 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With more vaccine exemptions starting next week, the Honolulu City Council is urging the administration to expand testing efforts.

“It’s very costly and very expensive for many people that are now required to do it for work as well as some additional employers that have also followed suit with the city,” said Honolulu City Councilwoman Andria Tupola.

The City Council is asking for the hours to be extended at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport’s COVID testing site. They also urge the administration to reopen the mobile testing clinic at the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel in Waikiki.

In addition, leaders are asking the state to restart community COVID-19 testing programs with the University of Hawaii Tropical Medicine Community Lab and use CARES Act funds to provide tests in rural areas.

“If you’re on the North Shore, if you teach at Sunset Beach, you can’t get to the airport test site as quickly as if you taught in town,” said Logan Okita, vice president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Currently, there are about nine free testing sites on Oahu.

The airport testing site is Oahu’s only free testing site that is open every day. They offer antigen tests usually with same-day results.

The Waianae Comprehensive Health Center runs 6 days a week, but the other free clinics are mostly one day events.

Okita said Neighbor Islands are also stuck with few testing options.

“But not all of the sites are available statewide or during times that aren’t after school,” said Okita. “So, it’s hard to get to a testing site at the end of the workday, or the line is already long enough that they’ve closed the site.”

The House Committee on Education suggests schools conduct widespread testing for staff and kids with parental consent as an additional layer of protection.

“Because it is, in our mind crucially important to help mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Chair of the House Committee on Education.

In the meantime, the City Council is also pushing the state to bring back pre-travel testing for all incoming passengers, vaccinated or not.

But Lt. Gov. Josh Green doesn’t think the federal government would allow it.

“What happened was the CDC in their guidance has decided that people with vaccination cards, fully vaccinated are safe to travel and that is the standard right now,” said Green.

“Therefore, if the state tries to apply a secondary standard like mandatory testing before travel to avoid quarantine, it will not stand the test of legal challenges.”

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