Hawaii Island Lawmakers want DOH to Improve Inadequate COVID-19 Testing, Lag Time Results
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – Every Hawaiʻi Island State Representative and Senator has signed a letter to state Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson to express their concern for the inadequate testing and unacceptable lag time in receiving COVID-19 test results that Hawaiʻi Island residents must endure.
“As COVID-19 spreads through Hawaiʻi Island, it becomes critical that we have test results as soon as possible to warn infected individuals and make contact tracking more comprehensive and effective by identifying carriers in a more timely manner,” said Representative Mark M. Nakashima, Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives.
According to the Aug. 25 letter, Hawaiʻi Island tests must be sent to Honolulu, and then in some cases sent on to the mainland for processing and analysis. This delays test results for an additional 5-10 days, which in this pandemic is unacceptable and amounts to treating some residents as second-class citizens.
“It allows for undiagnosed, asymptomatic persons to unknowingly spread the virus. This has resulted in a much greater community spread that Hawaiʻi Island has now been experiencing in the past weeks,” according to the letter.
The DOH has an estimated $57 million in federal grants earmarked for COVID-19 related expenses and providing analytic equipment for Hawaii Island definitely falls within that parameter, the letter says.
“I believe that having the appropriate analytic equipment on Hawaiʻi Island is necessary for us to get results faster since there are no other resources on the island to do the accurate testing of these samples,” said Representative Rickard H.K. Onishi.
Dan Brinkman, East Hawaiʻi Regional CEO, Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corp., which includes Hilo Medical Center, said new testing equipment is critical to fighting the coronavirus.
“Testing with results measured in hours not days is a crucial tool to manage COVID-19, both in the hospital and in our communities. With quick results we can reduce the spread and minimize clusters of infection which have been the prime source of our hospitalized COVID-19 patients. We look forward to working with the DOH and our lab partner Clinical Labs to make the best use of on island testing equipment. We appreciate the efforts of the Big Island legislative delegation in raising awareness of this crucial issue.”
Lawmakers signing the letter are:
Representative Richard P. Creagan (Naʻālehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona)
Representative Nicole E. Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Hōlualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau)
Representative Mark M. Nakashima (Hāmākua, North Hilo, South Hilo)
Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (Hilo, Kea‘au, Kurtistown, Volcano, Pāhala)
Representative Joy A. San Buenaventura (Puna)
Representative David A. Tarnas (North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala)
Representative Chris Todd (Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Panaʻewa, Waiākea)
Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele (Hilo)
Senator Dru Mamo Kanuha (Kona, Ka‘u)
Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona)
Senator Russell E. Ruderman (Puna, Ka‘u)