Hawaii public health officials say it has to do with efficiency, resources and epidemiological risk, as well as the protocol that weeds out the common cold or flu.
Hawaii State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said the state will begin to randomly test negative flu samples across the islands for possible COVID-19 cases.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Department of Health officials and the governor say they are keeping to strict criteria to use resources properly. They’re working with physicians to triage which patients are likely to have COVID-19 because of their symptoms and travel history. That criteria will likely expand as new pockets of the virus appear across the nation.
“We’ve expanded what the CDC recommended, otherwise we would never have picked up that individual from Washington State,” Dr. Sarah Park, the state’s epidemiologist, said Tuesday. “We’re trying to be judicious with our limited resources and staffing to make sure that we get the best value, so we can identify the positives and learn from them. If you just tested everyone and got a hundred negatives and one positive, that would not be a good use of our resources.”
When will Hawaii start to test randomly?
Right now. The Department of Health announced Tuesday it would begin surveillance screening to get a clearer picture of the virus’ prevalence in the community. Starting this week, the state will pull random samples from laboratories where patients had symptoms but tested negatively for the flu or cold.
“We’ve been asking for this capability and working with the CDC for weeks to get this program in the field,” said Bruce Anderson, state health director. “It will help us focus our prevention and response efforts so that we can keep our communities safe and informed about how the virus is affecting our state.”
Bruce Anderson, director of the state health department, said surveillance testing will allow the state to determine if the coronavirus is being spread in the community.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The State Laboratories Division will receive about 400 flu-negative samples a week from hospitals and laboratories and from that pool it will randomly select 200 to test for COVID-19.
I think I have the coronavirus. Can I get tested?
First, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms and whether or not you should come into the clinic. Emergency departments and doctors’ offices are overwhelmed right now and it’s possible that your doctor will tell you to stay home to recover if your symptoms are mild.
Expect your doctor to ask you about the epidemiological risk factors, such as recent travel to Japan or Washington state. Patients still need to get referred by a physician to be tested for the coronavirus and will likely go through a flu test first.
If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, it is likely you’ll qualify for a test. A doctor will take an uncomfortable swab from your nasal cavity down to your throat and send it off to the lab.
Keep in mind that from China’s experience, about 80% of cases were mild. So in the event of an outbreak in Hawaii, many people will be asked to recover at home if they are not in need of intensive care from a hospital.
When will private laboratories start testing too?
On Tuesday private laboratories entered the scene. Local labs including The Clinical Labs of Hawaii and Diagnostic Laboratory Services are capable of providing testing services. Some private laboratories in Hawaii may have to rely on sending samples to the mainland for confirmation until they validate their tests in-house. Theoretically, doctors in private practice do not need to seek DOH approval to call for a COVID-19 test; as of today, physicians may request testing from private laboratories.
Will Hawaii get drive-through testing like South Korea?
At this point, it looks unlikely. Gov. David Ige said Tuesday that method has been mostly used in areas with large clusters of infection.
Is there a coronavirus hotline?
If you have general questions about coronavirus, you may call the state hotline at 2-1-1 or text 877-275-6569. For the latest information on COVID-19 in Hawaii, visit the state’s website.
We have plenty more questions to answer so stay tuned for more posts like this as we work our way through them. Meanwhile, use the form below to ask us anything and tell us what, if anything, you’re doing differently to avoid getting sick.
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