Demand for testing up as mandates begin on Oahu

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Thousands of unvaccinated employees who work at gyms, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and more are now required to do weekly COVID-19 testing under the Oahu Safe Access Program. Thousands of unvaccinated individuals will also need a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 48 hours to enter most of those establishments.

On Monday, the City and County of Honolulu partnered with Nomi Health, and it is offering free drive-thru antigen testing at the Blaisdell. Although testing is available by appointment only, the line wrapped around the block with about 400 people tested by noon.

Download the KHON2 app for iOS or Android to stay informed of Hawaii’s breaking news

“I think by the end of the day, we’ll hit at least 700 to 800,” said Ailana Meyer, Nomi Health field operations director.

On the first day, the wait time was between 10 and 15 minutes.

“We do have a lot of locals coming in, but we are getting a lot of visitors and tourists that are finding us,” she explained.

Antigen results are sent to the tester via text or e-mail within an hour, and PCR results can take one to two days, but are considered the more accurate test.

Non-vaccinated visitors entering the state are also required to take a negative COVID test to go to restaurants and attend certain activities and attractions within 48 hours, and they’re paying to do so.

Doctors on Call at the Sheraton Waikiki averages about 75 to 150 tests daily. On Monday, they had a line of visitors waiting to get a test.

“Today, it looks like we’re going to do over 200 rapid tests,” explained Dr. James Barahal of Doctors on Call at Sheraton Waikiki. “Because of the mandate and the requirement for workers to have a negative test if they’re not vaccinated, and for visitors able to do certain things, they will also need that negative test.”

Appointments aren’t required at the airport, officials there said lines have been getting longer. They’re averaging about 1,100 antigen tests daily.

“We’re seeing more testers trying to be in compliance with the new mandates,” explained Kelsey Kohagura, National Kidney Foundation project director. “So, not as much exposure or symptomatic patients more are just trying to be compliant.”

The wait in the afternoon was about an hour and a half.

City and county employees can get tested at the airport, there is a line for kupuna and city and county workers to bypass the long line for free testing.

According to health department data, about 88% of Oahu residents (731,722) have received at least one dose, and about 659,641 residents (79%) are fully vaccinated of about 831,780 eligible residents.

That leaves about 110,000 Oahu residents unvaccinated.

The demand for testing is overwhelming on the Leeward side.

“We are at max capacity for testing,” said Jacob Schafer, Waianae Comprehensive Health Center Director of Infection Control. “We’ve actually made the decision that we are only testing people that are symptomatic or have been exposed to COVID.”

They’ve partnered with CVS/Longs in Nanakuli to offer rapid walk-in testing for people who need quick results for work or Safe Access Oahu.

“They report lines now that people are showing up an hour before their appointment time and waiting in line for over an hour, that’s how much the demand is increased,” he continued.

Check out what’s going on around the nation on our National News page

To find a testing site near you, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Hawaii News

More Local News

Trending Stories