(BIVN) – Testing was the dominant theme of Wednesday’s telephone town hall talk with Tulsi Gabbard, who was joined on the line by Hawaiʻi residents and Dr. Scott Miscovich, a physician who has been leading COVID-19 testing efforts in the state.
“Testing is absolutely critical in our fight to defeat the spread of Coronavirus. While testing numbers have increased, both here and across the country, we are nowhere near the scale of testing proven to be effective in countries like South Korea,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in a later media release. “Dr. Miscovich and his team who are conducting testing across the state are working very hard to improve access to testing so that we can better contain the virus. Just like healthcare professionals across the state, they are in dire need of masks and other personal protective equipment. I and many others are working hard every day to get them what they need so they can take care of all of us.”
According to the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, the total number of individuals tested by clinical and state laboratories, as of Wednesday, is 10,462. The number of positive cases was 256. Negative results were counted at 10,206.
In addition, the state says, “Community Surveillance testing has conducted roughly 380 tests to date on representative samples from every island with one (1) positive result on O‘ahu, reinforcing there is limited and localized community spread on O‘ahu.”
One telephone town hall caller, who was identified as “Paul” from West Hawaiʻi, talked about the recent drive-through screening of 1,600 people at the Old Kona Airport, and wanted to know why they haven’t seen the results of the 300 that were tested.
“I agree with you,” said Dr. Miscovich, “and it’s a frustration for us because I think it’s important.”
“There are those 250 tests that can be done” locally per day, Miscovich said. “The majority are going up to the hospitalized patients.”
“All of the other swabs, including the ones that were done in Kona… I have been selectively giving half of them to one lab, half to the other, so as we don’t overload them,” Miscovich said. Those other swabs “are taken by courier, dropped immediately on the plane, and flown to the respective mainland labs. I think one is Quest Diagnostics, the other is LabCorp. Now those are the two biggest labs in the United States, so what happens is LabCorp may just have a big shipment that comes in from Los Angeles, or someone may have some from Houston. And depending on when that queue gets there, that’s where they are run and it is outside the control of diagnosis, but way outside the control that we have at the clinical level. And we are frustrated by it.”
Some tests are coming back in 2 to 3 days days, others are taking up to 16 days.
“I think there is good news to bring in,” Miscovich said, “and that is that diagnostics, especially in-clinical, are very close maybe within the next two weeks to have enough reagents that will allow their local process lab to really ramp up to a thousand or more each so we could hopefully start accommodating our demand.”