Hawaii Updates: Why Not More Tests? Cases Stand At 95; Blood Bank Seeks Donors

5 hours ago

As Hawaii's coronavirus case total nears 100, state senators want to know why Hawaii is not following the South Korea model in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. 

 South Korea drastically reduced the number of new COVID-19 cases over the space of about a month. One key step it took was widespread testing.

The state health department has been saying only those with symptoms of the virus and who are elderly or with underlying medical conditions should be tested.

See yesterday's updates: state stay-at-order in effect, death case is negative

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park told a Senate committee yesterday copying South Korea’s testing program would take a lot of resources. 

“First of all to support that level of testing would require then probably financing all the labs with high throughput machines, providing them with the laboratory staff and the reagents and all the supplies to be able to support that. So that's number one," said Park.

"Number two is then supporting all the efforts in the public health side with regard to contact investigations, sequestering isolating, and putting people in quarantine and maintaining that number three, it requires support to enforce that isolation and quarantine. Remember, this is not Korea, or one of the Asian countries with which is frankly much more authoritarian.”

Park says that’s why the state has been practicing quote “judicious testing.”

But Dr. Edward Desmond, who directs the state health department's laboratories division, says a new kind of test might allow people to collect a specimen at home. It could then be evaluated by reliable labs, expanding the availability of testing.

Where Hawaii stands

Hawaii's coronavirus case count now stands at 95, according to the state health department's latest update. The number represents an increase of 6 cases from yesterday. Oahu has 68 cases, Maui 13, Kauai 5 and the Big Island 5. Four cases are pending results. There are no fatalities from COVID-19.

Blood Bank of Hawaii asks Oahu residents for help

The organization has temporarily stopped collecting blood on the neighbor islands due to COVID-19 concerns. That makes Oahu the sole lifeline for the state.

Blood Bank officials say they are fine on supply for now.

But due to the ongoing crisis – they’ll need to meet the demand from hospitals for an indefinite period of time.

COVID-19 can’t be transferred through blood, but the Blood Bank is taking special precautions…including pre-screening donors.

C-E-O Kim-Anh Nguyen says the Blood Bank will set up five pop-up donor centers.

"We have created shifts by appointment only for blood donors. The shifts are what we call our appointments. They are spaced out to ensure that no more than six, or 10, people/donors are at any Donation Center at any one time," Nguyen said. 

 

"Six feet apart, that is orderly and that it’s clean, and it also ensures that our staff have extra time to pre-screen donors, extra time to clean all donor beds in between each donation."

Nguyen said people wanting to donate blood can do so, even under the state’s stay-at-home emergency order. That’s because giving blood is considered an essential activity.

Every blood type is needed at this time, she said.

More information can be found at the Blood Bank's website.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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