Hundreds of people who lined up for hours for a COVID test Friday at Old Kona Airport Park learned Thursday that those tests had been lost in transit.
Some 407 people tested on January 7 by TrueCare24, under contract with Hawaii County, received the letter by email informing them of “frustrating news” about tests carried out at the county park last week.
“The samples that day were not delivered by our courier partner to the lab despite providing delivery confirmation, and unfortunately the large number of samples collected that day were lost and not are no longer valid… We have been working to ensure that each site has enough testing supplies to continue to provide you with the results you need,” the email read.
The message continues with an apology as well as notes about pilot shortages and the Phoenix-based lab being overwhelmed, before stating that it is strongly recommended that each of those 407 people retest.
Attempts to reach the San Francisco-based company by phone and email were unsuccessful as of press time Thursday.
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said Thursday afternoon that the county has been in discussions with TrueCare24 since being notified of the invalid tests in the morning.
“We are assured and have confirmed that these are the only tests that were designated invalid due to late delivery from the period 7/1-10 when TrueCare24 was actively testing the county’s COVID testing operations,” said Roth said. “We are pleased that they have found a solution to eliminate this recurrence. That said, we apologize to everyone affected by the inconvenience and encourage people to get re-tested as soon as possible. Testing is our greatest asset to slow the spread, and we appreciate everyone who took the time to get tested in a larger effort to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community as a whole.
Roth added that the county recently ramped up testing on the island, but is concerned about the availability of test kits.
“It’s not a Hawaii County thing, it’s a national thing,” he said.
TrueCare24 has secured a one-year contract with the county to provide testing starting Oct. 8, 2021, at a cost of $1,500 per hour plus $44 per test. The program is administered by Hawaii County Civil Defense. According to the county’s Community Testing Program online schedule, the company is currently offering testing 15 times a week at various locations around the island.
TrueCare24 was on the schedule for Wednesday’s testing at Old Kona Airport Park, the first after the gaffe, however, Premier Medical confirmed it had screened 550 people.
Roth spokesperson Cyrus Johnasen explained that although TrueCare24 is the county’s primary provider, if the company does not have adequate testing supplies, another provider is called.
While the county and TrueCare24 advised those affected to retest immediately, the state Department of Health took a different view.
DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said that given the time that has passed, state health officials would not recommend everyone retest.
“For people who were tested on January 7, either because of symptoms or because of exposure, their 5-day isolation or quarantine period has already passed,” he said via email. -mail. “The most important thing anyone can do if they have symptoms of COVID-19 is to isolate themselves from others. Testing is an important tool, but isolation will slow the spread of COVID-19.
Baehr said those who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should follow DOH guidelines for close contacts, including quarantining for five days if their vaccinations are not up to date.
“It has been six days since these people were tested. Current guidelines for anyone who tests positive are to self-isolate for five days or until symptoms resolve, followed by five days of mask-wearing,” he added on Thursday. “Even if the test someone took on January 7 came back positive, the five-day isolation period has already passed. As long as they don’t show symptoms of COVID-19, they can be released from isolation. They should continue to wear a mask around all other people at least until next Monday, ten days from their test date.
Ilima Choy was one of 407 people affected. She waited in line for over two hours for her test on Friday and is extremely upset with the result.
“We were supposed to get our test results within 48 to 72 hours. When I didn’t receive it on Monday afternoon, I did an online chat and they said we should have the results by tonight (Monday),’ she said. “I waited and did not understand.”
She said she contacted the company again on Tuesday evening and was told there was a delay and it would make results a bit longer, but should be expected soon.
“Wednesday when I did the following conversation they said ‘we ran into difficulties, you’ll get a text message if that’s how you requested the results report. Then Thursday morning they sent the email. Why drag me till this morning? I waited in line for two hours. A few people in front of me said they needed a negative test result to be able to return to work.
Email Laura Ruminski at [email protected]