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City May Need To Return Thousands Of COVID-19 Test Kits To Feds

Sandee Oshiro/HPR
FILE--Surge testing is conducted at the Ala Wai Community Park on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.

The City and County of Honolulu has thousands of COVID-19 test kits for anyone who wants one, but officials have less than two weeks to use them.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allowed the city to hold onto 28,500 test kits after conducting a two-week surge testing campaign in September following a sharp spike in cases.

The city has until the end of November to use those kits or it'll need to return the remaining ones to the federal government.

Since October, the city has been holding surge testing in various locations around O?ahu to use them up.

John Cummings with the city’s incident management team that runs the testing program said there are now roughly 19,000 available tests.

"We hope the public will take the chance because, again, it is a free test. It’s a PCR test. It’s an easy, self-administered nasal swab. It’s not the quote-unquote poke the back of your brain test," he said.


"Most of the tests we’ve been hearing are getting back within a three-day timeframe itself, so it’s pretty quick. And anyone can test, bring your families down. We’ve had children with their parents go through testing – as long as there’s an adult guardian with them, they’re fine, too."


The city has been averaging about 430 tests a day over 22 testing days, although it can process up to a 1,000 daily. Cumming said the pace has been picking up over the last week or two.


"I think as people are learning more about it, and I think they’re also realizing that as of this coming Monday, there’s only going to be 10 days left for the free COVID-19 testing," he said.


The Waik?k? Shell is the city's main location for the surge testing. It is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Nov. 30.


Cummings said there is ample parking and those tested are processed in less than 15 minutes. "And we've never had a line that gets very, very long," he said.


To register for the tests, visit the website.


More information on locations and dates is also available on the city's site.


Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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