‘It takes a village’: COVID-19 testing in Waikoloa draws hundreds

  • Army National Guard Sgt. Roberto Ramilo Jr. swabs a patient Saturday at Waikoloa School. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Premier Medical Group medical director Dr. Ka‘ohi Dang Akiona reviews paperwork before a patient gets tested Saturday at Waikoloa School.

  • Hawaii Fire Department and Civil Defense assist in Saturday’s COVID testing at Waikoloa School. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Hawaii Fire Department personnel take temperature checks at Saturday’s COVID testing at Waikoloa School. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

A steady stream of cars entered Waikoloa School’s parking lot Saturday for free drive-through COVID-19 testing.

“The turnout has been great,” said organizer Nancy Johnson, a middle school counselor. “Everybody is seeing the need (for testing) and everybody is coming together. That’s what makes our community great.”

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Johnson said it was truly an “it takes a village” event with school staff, the National Guard, Hawaii Civil Defense, Hawaii Fire Department, Hawaii Police Department and parents from Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s swim club coming together to assist Premier Medical in performing 258 tests from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Premier Medical also performed 453 tests at Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.

Principal Kris Kosa-Correia said Johnson approached her with the idea as they saw the number of cases in Oahu and Hilo rise.

“We need to be proactive with testing and contact tracing,” she said, realizing the parking lot on a weekend would be a perfect venue. “Nancy just ran with it.”

After contacting all the involved agencies, the school got the word out to their families.

Johnson said the National Guard arrived early and mapped out the parking lot to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles.

“They are doing a fantastic job,” she said.

Keiki to kupuna lined up to get tested, some coming from Waimea and Kohala.

One of several teachers at the school who showed up for testing brought her two small children.

“I wanted to do my part to see if we have this in our community,” she said. “With two elementary school-age kids, I want to make sure we don’t have it and be unsymptomatic. That’s how it can spread”

Premier Medical Group medical director Dr. Ka‘ohi Dang Akiona spoke to passengers in every vehicle that came through the line, assuring the keiki that the test wouldn’t hurt.

“It’s just like when you go swimming in the ocean and get water up your nose,” she explained.

“I’m not afraid, that happens to me all the time,” exclaimed one little boy.

At the testing station, Army National Guard Sgt. Roberto Ramilo Jr. and his team swabbed the passengers and occasional walk-ins as part of the Joint Task Force.

The medic said it is their duty to support the local community. They have also been assisting in testing by Alii Health Center in the Keauhou Shopping Center, as well as helping with food drops.

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“We are providing a service to keep the community safe and fed,” he said.

“We need to do what we can to stop this, not just wait around for a vaccine or magic pill,” said Kosa-Correia.

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