State launches program to identify community spread of COVID-19


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The State Health Department is stepping up its efforts to test for COVID-19 in our islands in an effort to identify possible cases of community spread of the virus.

Community spread is defined as cases that cannot be traced back to a traveler or to those who came in contact with a person who has coronavirus.

COVID-19 testing remains prioritized for patients who are seriously ill, elderly, or may have underlying medical conditions. But the new surveillance testing program will help focus on people who may have not met the criteria.

“We’re going to be taking respiratory samples, swab samples, nose and back of the throat from patients who come into health care settings, clinics with respiratory problems cough, shortness of breath, and other symptoms,” said State Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Anderson.

Health officials will pull samples from tests that resulted negative for the flu.

“We’ll be targeting specifically outpatients so people who are going to clinics, to their private providers with mild illness, fever, plus cough,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

The state will be doing these tests and officials expect to get up to 400 specimens a week from participating healthcare providers. Out of that pool of 400 or so samples, they hope to test about 200 samples each week.

“They will be randomly selected but in a way so that we can make sure we have good representation according to the population by county, according to age groups, and so that it’s not just skewed for one particular population so to speak,” said Dr. Park. “So it’s random but it also is to a certain extent somewhat directed to be representative of our state essentially.”

“So I think this is a good proactive way to go and I’m very pleased that we’re taking this step and it should be very helpful to us in controlling better this disease,” said Dr. Anderson.

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