HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s a big week for the University of Hawaii football team. This weekend, they’ll face Fresno State in a crowd-less stadium.
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Back at home, there has been frustration over the Rainbow Warriors even being able to practice and play games. Meanwhile, other local sports teams and businesses are still confined to the tiers in the City and County of Honolulu’s reopening strategy.
Currently, organized team sports are not allowed in Honolulu until Tier 4.
University of Hawaii Athletics is exempt from that for a couple of reasons. First, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says education falls under state jurisdiction. Second, and more importantly, the department has a rigorous testing regimen.
According to Hawaii Athletics, the Rainbow Warrior football team and staff are all screened with COVID-19 tests three times per week. The cost of these tests, estimated to be millions of dollars, are covered by the Mountain West Conference.
Testing will continue as the ‘Bows hit the road this week for their season opener at Fresno State, where the team will leave their hotel only to practice and for the game.
When Hawaii returns home on Nov. 7 for their first home game against New Mexico, the Lobos will also be tested for COVID-19. The MWC’s tests are conducted by Quest Diagnostics, which is one of the approved partners for the state’s Safe Travels Program.
“They’ve come up with protocols that have allowed people to practice safely because significant testing regime and other protocols put into place,” Mayor Caldwell said.
What’s stopping private businesses from implementing similar testing programs themselves? Mayor Caldwell says he’d be open to the idea but currently, testing resources are thin.
“I’d be open to all kinds of possibilities to keep businesses open so they can keep people employed,” Mayor Caldwell added.
Testing would be cost-prohibitive for most businesses at current prices. In the future, as testing capacity grows and hopefully becomes less expensive, there will still be hurdles.
Dr. Alan Wu of Doctors of Waikiki says deciphering test results and obtaining reliable tests can be difficult.
“The UH football team has their own medical staff, the trainers who are qualified to do these types of tests. So I don’t think, going forward, every business is going to have that certified trained personnel to interpret these tests,” Dr. Wu said.
Dr. Wu added that reading tests can be complicated and needs to be done by a lab. The results aren’t inherently as simple as positive or negative.
UH says that their other athletic programs are tested regularly under surveillance testing, which is funded by the university. Once in season, every athlete and staff member will be tested three times per week under NCAA guidance.