Surveillance testing begins Monday on Oahu, Big Island testing catches few positive cases


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Since the pre-travel testing program launched on Thursday, about 24,000 trans-Pacific travelers have entered the state. Numbers are not available yet for passengers who arrived on Sunday.

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Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said that residents account for about 30 percent of those numbers.

“It’s been 8,000 people a day — Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, it’s almost identical,” said Lt. Gov. Green.

He had originally anticipated fewer travelers arriving the first couple days.

“It’s blowing my mind right now, but thank goodness, they’re coming in with a negative test for the most part,” he said.

Surveillance testing has already begun on Hawaii Island where travelers are required to taken an antigen test upon arrival.

Epidemiologist Dr. DeWolfe Miller is running the surveillance testing program and is working with a long list of partners including Lt. Gov Green, the state and its Safe Travels app, and Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is running the post-arrival antigen testing at Kona Airport.

As of Saturday, Dr. Miller and Lt. Gov Green said that 2,800 travelers arrived on Hawaii Island and were tested.

“Nine were positive, five were false positive,” explained Dr. Miller.

Lt. Gov. Green said certain antigen tests have a false negative rate of 3% to 7%. Anyone who arrives on the Big Island and tests positive with the antigen test is required to take the ‘gold-standard’ PCR test.

“So, four out of out of 2,800 were truly positive that were somehow missed by the previous test, which is a very small number out of 2,800,” Dr. Miller said.

UPDATE: On Monday, Oct. 19, Lt. Gov Green said the four second PCR tests turned out to be negative. Of the 2,800 travelers from Thursday to Saturday, all travelers tested at Kona Airport were negative for Covid-19.

Kauai and Maui counties are doing voluntary post-arrival testing. Oahu will start testing its arrivals on Monday.

The goal is to test 10% of all arriving travelers.

“So, we do a sample of those who are coming in. It’s a representative sample,” explained Dr. Miller. “It gives you a really, really good representative sample, and then you test them. Depending on how many of them tests positive, or how many tests positive and then are really false positive, or really true positive, we already have some preliminary data on that is looking pretty good.”

Dr. Miller said the samples will link with the state travels app.

“So, using the app, it has a list of just everybody who’s coming in, on every airline, and so you just take the sample size. I think what we do is we start from a random number and then take every 10, and we send them this really irresistible invitation,” he explained.

The invitation states that you’ll help keep Hawaii safe by participating. You can choose to opt-out of the test, but you could benefit from the free second test.

“There will be some incentives, some minor incentives very generously, Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines are going to put up free plane tickets in a raffle,” explained Lt. Gov Green.

For visitors who are selected, Lt. Gov Green said that if they opt into the program, it shouldn’t impact their vacation too much because they’ve already tested negative on the mainland.

Those who opt-in to the program will go to a convenient nearby testing site listed on the e-mail. Ko Olina has a site set up for travelers who stay there.

Dr. Miller said with the Big Island’s test results so far, the pre-test will catch many who are positive before they enter the state.

“We can tell right away, we have some heads up from his [Dr. Miscovich] work on the Big Island, that it’s going to be rare, whatever it is,” Dr. Miller said. “We expect for the number to be small.”

Dr. Miller said he’ll make reports available to the public as soon as possible.

“If it’s too many [coming in positive], then we need to have a second test. If the first test does a good enough job, that’ll be good too,” he said.

“If we see any significant spikes we will constantly adjust for safety,” Lt. Gov Green said.

Dr. Miller and Lt. Gov Green said that the best way to keep case numbers down statewide is to wear a mask.

Dr. Miller said quarantine hotels would also be beneficial so it prevents quarantine breakers from slipping through the testing system.

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