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State rolls out free COVID testing program on school campuses

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:41 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:42 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Health Department says more schools are registering for Operation Expanded Testing, a voluntary weekly testing program for students, teachers and staff administered on campus.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says the federally funded program is open to private and public schools.

Kemble said so far, 161 public schools registered for the program and 59 schools are currently conducting tests.

DOH says 96 schools have signed up on Oahu, 26 on Maui, 23 on the Big Island and 15 on Kauai.

“The expansion of the testing program is moving very quickly so it’s changing week to week,” said Kemble. “Some schools that were saying, ‘Hey how do we get tested?’ two weeks ago are now registered and some of them are beginning to test.”

The program requires schools to provide staffing, but they don’t need a medical background.

“So, I do know for some schools they’re still working to identify how to staff that program, but it is one of the easiest programs to set up in that regard,” said Kemble.

DOH says PCR tests are used. Samples are collected on nasal swabs and put into test tubes and sent to a mainland lab. Results are available in about three days.

The program is a relief to parents like Gail Dias.

“I know firsthand that my kids feel cramped in the school,” said Dias. “I think it’s important that the kids who are vaccinated and unvaccinated are able to get tested for not only the parents peace of mind, but for the teachers as well.”

Chad Mahoe is a 7th grade counselor at Ewa Makai Middle School. As a parent and educator, he feels the program will make a big difference in the community.

“I definitely feel a little bit more peace of mind,” said Mahoe. “I have three children who are currently in school so I think because of close contacts and all the different things that can happen in schools, I definitely feel it’s advantageous for us to be able to have locations that are near where I work.”

The Hawaii State Teacher Association’s President, Osa Tui Jr. released the following statement saying in part:

While we are glad free COVID-19 testing is becoming available at some schools, it’s troubling that we’re more than six weeks into the school year and testing is still not available at more than one third of our schools.

Below is a list of schools that offer free COVID testing.

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