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Post-flight COVID testing to be scaled back

Hawaii County is planning to scale back post-flight COVID-19 testing this month.

Testing of arriving trans-Pacific travelers at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole and Hilo International Airport will be reduced by 50% in April, said Cyrus Johnasen, spokesman for Mayor Mitch Roth.

The county, in partnership with Premier Medical Group, has tested nearly 100% of arriving travelers since the resumption of trans-Pacific travel in October. Nearly 200,000 travelers have been tested with less than 200 receiving a positive result. In late March, more than 3,000 people per day were being tested with less than a 0.7% positivity rate.

Post-flight testing was initially funded via federal coronavirus relief funds that ran out Dec. 15. Thanks to private philanthropists, the county has been able to continue the program.

Johnasen said the reasoning for the shift away from testing all arriving trans-Pacific travelers is two-fold. It will help alleviate some of the mounting pressures felt by the airports and airlines as travel to the Big Island increases, and help to cut costs, which will allow the post-arrival testing program to continue longer than initially anticipated.

“We believe that with over a quarter of our community initiating their vaccinations, with the bulk being those more vulnerable, we are in a safe place to begin easing restrictions at our airports. This said, it is important to stress the need for our communities to remain vigilant and to continue practicing all of the social distancing measures that are in place, including wearing a mask, washing hands regularly and socially distancing whenever possible,” he said. “We would also like to encourage residents to get their vaccinations as they become available.”

To date, more than 85,500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered on the Big Island, according to data from the state Department of Health.

As of Thursday, Hawaii has been awarded 727,560 COVID-19 vaccine doses of which 717,980 had been received as of Thursday. Of the doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson &Johnson vaccines received, 85%, or 634,442 doses, have been administered statewide, including 85,566 on the Big Island.

An estimated 28% of the state’s population has received at least one dose and 16.3% have completed the vaccination process, according to the state.

On the Big Island, 27.7% of the population has received at least one dose and 15.6% have completed the vaccination process, according to the DOH. An estimated 50% of the population age 60 and older has received at least one dose, with 70% of the island’s kupuna 75 and older having received at least one dose. About 62% of kupuna 75 and older are fully inoculated.

Meanwhile, the Big Island’s COVID-19 case count increased to 2,487 Thursday, with eight new cases reported.

Statewide, a total of 114 new cases were reported Thursday by the DOH. Oahu reported 72 of those cases, Maui County 30 and Kauai none. Four residents were diagnosed while outside the state.

To date, there have been 29,794 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Aloha State. The Big Island on Thursday had a 1.7% positivity rate, just under the statewide rate of 1.9%.

During the past two weeks, the Big Island has reported 133 cases, or an average of 11.9 cases per day. The majority of those cases have been in East Hawaii, with the Hilo area reporting 50 cases and the Mountain View area 11. The Kailua-Kona area has reported 22 in the past 14 days.

However, according to the Health Department’s cluster report issued Thursday no clusters have been under investigation during the past two weeks.

Statewide, 42 people were hospitalized Thursday, with two hospitalizations on the Big Island..

No new coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday. Of the 463 coronavirus-related deaths confirmed and reported by the state to date, 366 were on Oahu, 40 were on Maui, 53 were on the Big Island and one on Kauai. Three deaths were among residents outside the state.

No deaths have been reported on the Big Island this year.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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