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County, DOH continue COVID-19 test distribution in Kalaheo

KALAHEO — Residents and volunteers at Wednesday’s COVID-19 test distribution at the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center were cautiously optimistic about the state of the pandemic.

“I hope the worst is over,” said Ernest Vidinha, 76, who received 10 tests.

“In the meantime,” he gestured at the tests, “I’m going to stay safe. At my age, you can’t be too safe.”

Kalaheo Neighborhood Center Manager Jason Caldeira said it’s not over just yet.

“I think it’s something we’re going to deal with for the rest of our lives, like the common cold. I hope our immunity to it improves,” Caldeira said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

About a half-hour after the distribution began at 1 p.m., more than 200 of the 300 available tests had been handed out and a steady trickle of people were walking in to pick up kits. Masks were optional, though some workers and test recipients still elected to wear one.

The 15,000 total free rapid test kits are being provided by the County of Kaua‘i in partnership with the state Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office, using federal funding, at various sites throughout the week.

While the tests were moving pretty quickly Wednesday, it was nothing compared to the last round of test distribution in January, in which another 15,000 tests were handed out.

“There were 300 people in a line before we even started,” said Ross Kagawa of the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency. “We didn’t have enough to meet the demand.”

According to volunteers, people would camp out in line hours before test distribution began, bringing folding chairs and beach umbrellas.

“The line was out the door, around the building to the fire station,” said Hanapepe Recreation Center Manager Clyde Vito.

Tests were in such high demand earlier this year that Kagawa, a former Kaua‘i County councilmember, said there were reports of people reselling tests on Craigslist.

This time around, distributors made a limit of 20 tests per person, up from five kits per family.

“Because the country was in a panic with people not being able to get a test, there’s a lot of people that remember that and still feel that way,” West Coordinator of the county’s Department of Parks &Recreation Russell Wellington said.

He reported that he was still testing frequently because he needed to care for his elderly father.

Test distribution will continue throughout the week, at the Anahola Clubhouse from 9 a.m. to noon today and then the Bryan J. Baptiste Sports Complex in Kapa‘a from 1 to 4 p.m. On Friday, distributions will be at the Koloa Neighborhood Center from 9 a.m. to noon and then from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center.

Additionally, free test kits from the federal government can be ordered through covidtest.gov and delivered by mail, and the county provides PCR testing at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall at 4191 Hardy Street in Lihu‘e weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The county plans to distribute a third round of rapid tests sometime in the near future.

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Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or gscrimgeour@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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