Hawaii County will end its COVID-19 district testing program this week after about 14 months of screening Big Islanders for the novel coronavirus.
With the county transitioning away from its program, testing will be transferred to medical providers, which the county said Tuesday have been conducting the bulk of testing since vaccinations became widely available.
“With 52% of our island’s population receiving at least one vaccination shot, we feel that it is time to transition away from our community district testing program,” said Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno. “We have seen a steady decline in demand for services and feel that the medical care providers around the island are now equipped to begin taking on the role of community testing.”
On Tuesday, the state said none of the 194 tests administered on the Big Island turned up a positive COVID-19 test result, leaving Hawaii County’s tally at 2,763 for a second day.
Since testing began last March, according to the state Department of Health, more than 204,736 tests for COVID-19 have been conducted on the island by various entities, including the county and health care providers.
In the past two weeks, just 54 cases have cropped up among the more than 8,350 tests conducted for an average of three new cases daily and a positivity rate of 0.7%. About 15 cases were tied to the Kailua-Kona area with the remaining areas of the island reporting no more than 10 new cases.
COVID-19 testing is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. today at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo. On Thursday, testing will be offered from 9 a.m. to noon at Old Kona Airport in Kailua-Kona. The following day, Friday, testing will be conducted from 9 a.m. to noon at Pahoa District Park in Puna.
The final county community testing will be held Saturday at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kailua-Kona, also from 9 a.m. to noon.
“Our island has done an amazing job at keeping our numbers low, people out of hospitals, and getting shots in arms,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “As we begin to make this transition to our on-island medical care providers, we would like to encourage our community to continue getting vaccinated to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our county. We are on the path to normalcy, and with your help, we will be able to beat this virus once and for all, but it will take all of us.”
West Hawaii Community Health Center has also seen a decline in demand for testing, said spokeswoman Natasha Ala. Because of the reduced need, testing is now offered just two days a week via appointment, which can be made by calling (808) 326-5629.
“Just call us and we’ll take care of you,” said Ala. “If someone has symptoms, we will do a same-day COVID test.”
The Federally Qualified Health Center will hold its last mass vaccination clinic on May 28 at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium, Ala noted. Thereafter, vaccinations will be offered at its clinic sites.