HONOLULU(KHON2)–Mayor Kirk Caldwell unveils a three-tiered plan to increase and track COVID-19 testing in Honolulu.
“We should test, test and do more testing– it’s the way we open up,” Caldwell said at a press conference fronting the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako.
Caldwell said it’s about being able to turnaround and test quickly in case there is a spike in new cases of COVID-19. He said the multi-layered testing plan will provide much greater certainty and protection for the public and allows the state to be better prepared.
In order to ahcieve that goal, the city is collaborating with a number of businesses and is using $4 million in CARES funds to create a lab at JABSOM.
“This lab would be funded by CARES money by the City and County of Honolulu, provide testing both for the swab form of testing, that’s the PCR testing, but also antibody testing, which is where we’re all going in the long term as we continue to thaw out.”
University of Hawaii President David Lassner said that he believes the new lab at JABSOM will be a true hub for COVID-19 and testing innovation.
“We expect we’ll be able to create some really world class research here positioning Hawaii as a leader in response.”
Lassner said the lab will be a homegrown effort, staffed locally and headed by UH experts.
The city plans to provide tests to Community Health Centers around the island, making tests accessible for all.
“Hawaii (Community Health Centers) currently provide care to over 160,000 patients across the State of Hawaii and over 97,000 on Oahu alone,” Hawaii Primary Care Association CEO Robert Hirokawa said.
Hirokawa said providing that type of access can play a pivotal role in fighting the virus.
The third part of Caldwell’s plan, includes testing the prevalence of COVID-19 in the nine waste water plants across Oahu.
“It doens’t mean they can trace who was sick. But what it can tell us is what is the prevalence of COVID-19 in our water and is it going up, is it going down? It shows trend lines and it alerts people, in our case the City and County, whether we have a problem — whether there’s an increase in the virus,” Caldwell explained.
The first samples were taken two weeks ago before the city started reopening.
Department of Environment Services Director Lori Kahikina said there are some things that should be remembered when looking at the data going forward.
“I did tell the mayor be careful. Someone could be living in Waianae, Leeward side, but they’re using the bathroom in town. So be careful how you use this data,” Kahikina said.