Increased demand in COVID testing could lead to shortage of tests in Hawaii

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The demand for COVID tests is increasing.

Can the state keep up or could Hawaii see a shortage of tests?

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COVID cases are soaring and so is the demand for testing.

Diagnostic Laboratory Services president Mark Wasielewski said there is a large increase in tests at their lab.

“We’re probably at about 120% with our volume increase compared to where we were at two weeks ago,” Wasielewski said.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), the state is averaging 8,524 tests a day since Saturday, Aug. 27. Testing reached 10,969 on Wednesday, Aug. 25, — one of the highest counts since the pandemic started and not far behind the 10,894 tests administered when H3 was used as a testing site in September 2020.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said the recent demand for testing is incredible.

“In fact, it’s almost in excess of our ability to stay up with that,” Blangiardi said.

More than 1,000 unvaccinated State workers and an unknown number of County workers will soon be required to submit to weekly tests.

So what happens when businesses and restaurants start requiring unvaccinated workers to provide negative COVID results? Could Hawaii run out of tests?

DOH laboratory director Dr. Edward Desmond said they are doing what they can to keep up with the demand.

“The point of care tests are becoming more and more popular and more widely distributed,” Desmond explained. “But I think all across the country there’s a big demand for those testing supplies. And so we may be challenged with keeping up with the testing supplies.”

But not all types of tests are scarce.

“There’s a very big supply of the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) kits in our hospital and clinical laboratories,” Desmond said.

Wasielewski said NAAT tests and PCR tests are actually more accurate than antigen tests.

But point-of-care and antigen tests are more popular.

“It’s cheaper, it’s faster, but it catches the disease later,” Wasielewski said. “And there’s definitely a lot more false-positive, false-negative results…I would do PCR over antigen in those cases if you’re testing people weekly, because once you catch them on the antigen test, the person most likely is further along in the disease, which means it could be more contagious.”

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Wasielewski said people should ask what kind of test they are taking. If it is an antigen test and comes back negative, he recommended doing a PCR test as well, just to be safe.

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