(BIVN) – Community COVID-19 testing will be suspended beginning Saturday, March 26.
The County of Hawaiʻi said in a news release that the decision comes “as on-island case counts and hospitalizations related to COVID have drastically decreased, significantly reducing community need for largescale testing sites. Additionally, the suspension will supplement the sunsetting of Governor Ige’s Emergency Proclamation related to COVID-19, which will end Friday, March 25, at 11:59 p.m.”
The county-sponsored testing began on shortly after the start of the COVID pandemic back on March 23, 2020, and contributed to the administration of 90,310 PCR tests islandwide throughout the two-year period, officials say.
The county says some private vendors “may maintain COVID-19 testing operations islandwide, and the County of Hawaiʻi Civil Defense Administration will maintain its database on alternative testing locations, which may be found at hawaiicounty.gov/testing.”
“We have been at the forefront of testing operations since the onset of the pandemic, and this weekend we will hand that responsibility over to our on-island care providers who continue to step up and play a significant role in the slowing of the spread on our island,” said Mayor Mitch Roth in a written statement. “As we begin to learn to live with the virus, we have all the trust and faith in our healthcare community to adequately handle testing operations as part of their ongoing response to COVID. It’s time for us to move on from response to revitalization, and we thank our community partners for their willingness to do their part in that effort.”
Governor David Ige also issued a message regarding the conclusion of the current COVID-19 emergency period:
This month marked two years since we first detected COVID-19 in the islands and Hawaiʻi embarked on a journey to protect the health of our families, friends, and communities. Now that we know more about this virus and have the tools in our arsenal to lower case counts and hospitalizations, I am allowing the current emergency proclamation to expire on March 25.
After March 25, two of the biggest changes we’ll see include the ending of the Safe Travels Hawaiʻi program and the ending of the state’s indoor mask requirement. However, it’s important to note that the CDC and Dept. of Health continue to recommend mask use while indoors for certain populations.
If your business serves customers who would be protected by continued mask use, or you would feel more comfortable enforcing your own mask requirements, please note that businesses have the right to create their own rules to ensure safety for both their customers and their workers. An example of how you can notify the public of mask requirements follows:
“This business reserves the right to refuse service to anyone, including those not wearing a mask over their mouth and nose. Although emergency rules no longer mandate it, this establishment continues to require mask-wearing to protect the health of our patrons and employees.”
While the state’s emergency proclamation is ending, the pandemic is not over. I encourage businesses to continue some of the creative services they’ve offered during the pandemic, such as curb-side pickup, for those who are not yet comfortable resuming “normal” activities.
“This has been a long journey for all of us. Hawaiʻi has had the fewest cases per capita in the country and the second lowest death rate in the country thanks to all of us pulling together as a community. Each one of you has contributed to protecting public health, re-vitalizing our economy, and strengthening our communities,” the Governor added.