A major Hawaii laboratory that has conducted a large portion of COVID-19 diagnostic tests in the islands has suffered a major blow to its testing supply chain, which could cause significant delays in test result turnaround times.
The reagents are used for the laboratory’s fastest molecular-based testing machines, said Mark Wasielewski, president of DLS. Reagents are chemicals used to test patient swab samples.
Major mainland laboratories such as Quest Diagnostic Laboratories and LabCorp of America are competing for the same supplies, he said.
DLS’ capacity will shrink from 800 tests per day to 250 tests per day and the laboratory will only conduct high-priority testing locally for the immediate future, he said in an email.
Tests that aren’t flagged as crucial will be sent to mainland laboratories, but it could take up to 10 days for tests to be conducted there, he said.
“I am personally devastated that we cannot help with more testing as the demand and needs are rising in our state,” he said.
Other Hawaii laboratories are sharing supplies with DLS to assist its operations, he said. If given sufficient resources, DLS could perform as many as 2,000 tests per day with its current equipment.
Edward Desmond, the Hawaii State Laboratories Division administrator, said other Hawaii laboratories are already faced with supply shortages or will soon confront similar challenges.
“How long these shortages last is difficult to predict,” he told Civil Beat by email. “Because of current inventory on hand, shortages will not have an immediate serious impact.”
The state should be able to set priorities and maintain essential testing services, he said.
The Hawaii State Laboratories Division in particular currently has enough testing kits — which include reagents and supplies — to perform 25,000 tests, so it may help other laboratories in need of assistance to conduct essential testing.
The State Laboratories Division operates as a reference laboratory to check commercial laboratory results, maintain testing capacity reserves and conduct rapid testing for essential workers or in high-risk scenarios such as the recent outbreak of cases at an Oahu nursing home.
For several months, the State Laboratories Division has acquired testing supplies funded by the federal government through the International Reagent Resource, but the range of supplies available has “narrowed,” according to Desmond. The state laboratory is also purchasing testing instruments and supplies in the commercial market.
As of June 24, the average number of tests conducted daily in Hawaii was 1,289.
A ProPublica analysis updated July 7 found that Hawaii had a low number of positive tests per capita, and the state is just slightly short of a goal of 100 tests per 100,000 people per day.
The number of positive test results found per 100,000 people is on the rise, according to ProPublica’s metrics.
A program that would allow travelers to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine if they have negative test results from their place of origin is slated to go into effect on Aug. 1. Due to a recent rise in cases, that date could be postponed, Gov. David Ige said this week.