Free COVID Testing at Molokai Schools
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Last week, Molokai had seven reported new cases of COVID, with three on Monday, Aug. 30 and four on Thursday, according go the Dept. of Health. The island is now at 181 total cases since the pandemic began and 16 active in the last 14 days, as of Sunday.
Molokai schools have seen a fair share of cases as well, which officials say are mostly from community spread, rather than transmission within the school setting. Molokai High School has had 12 positive cases between Aug. 10 and Aug. 23, according to information released by the Dept. of Education. Molokai Middle has had four cases between Aug. 6-20, Kilohana School reported one case on Aug. 18, and Kualapu’u School had two positive cases on Aug. 6.
Free weekly COVID testing will now be available at all Molokai schools for staff and students in a partnership with the National Kidney Foundation. Molokai’s Kui Adolpho, working with the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, announced the testing opportunity last week.
“The overall goal of this program is to provide another layer of protection so we can feel confident in having in-person learning at our schools,” wrote Adolpho on social media. “The testing method is non-invasive and simple, all ages can participate — and results are available in 10-15 minutes.
This free option will also fulfill testing mandates for DOE staff and high school athletes, according to Adolpho.
“This is also being offered in elementary schools so parents can have peace of mind if their child was in close contact with a positive case,” she said.
Testing is scheduled to be offered at Molokai High School on Mondays, all elementary schools will be visited Wednesdays, Thursdays will be Molokai High and Middle schools, and Fridays will be an available make-up day. The schedule is subject to change as interest and need may fluctuate.
Primary testing will be done with a rapid antigen tests, with results available in 10 to 15 minutes. If any positives are identified, they will be retested using a PCR test, with results in 20 to 30 minutes. If the PCR test also shows positive, the principal will be notified and school procedures will be enacted.
Adolpho said registration is open now, and parent consent forms are required – no child will be tested without being registered and having parent authorization. Visit alohaclear.com to register.
DOE Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said since July 1, there have been 833 confirmed cases among staff and students across the state, as of Aug. 26.
“In three out of four cases, the infected individual was not on campus during the infectious period, an indication that our mitigation strategies are working to help prevent spread at schools,” wrote Hayashi in an Aug. 26 letter to parents.
The DOE reports cases within the public school system weekly, with updates available each Friday, listed by school, found at bit.ly/hidoe-covid-updates. For all confirmed cases in schools, immediate notification is given to individuals who may have been in close contact with the infected person about possible exposure, and broad notification is sent to staff and parents/guardians about the possible exposure and steps taken to contain spread, said Hayashi.
Though many parents have expressed frustration that no distance learning options are being offered this year, in-person learning mandates are being made at the DOE level, and decisions are not being left up to individual schools, as it was last year.
“Please help us keep kids safely in school by keeping them safe in the community,” wrote Molokai High leadership on the schools’ website. “Practice social distancing, limit social gatherings, wear a mask, get vaccinated and/or tested, and if you feel sick, stay home. So far all cases have come from the community, which then impacts students’ ability to attend school.”
Last week, the DOH released two new reports that show the damage of the Delta variant as it has swept across the state. A cluster report identified 70 COVID-19 clusters statewide, totaling 1,374 cases.
Eighteen clusters occurred on Oahu, 44 occurred on Maui, one occurred on Hawaii Island and seven occurred on Kauai.
“The report underscores that this surge is being driven by widespread community transmission,” stated a DOH release last week. “Vaccination reduces but does not eliminate the risk of becoming infected.”
A second report from the State Laboratory Division reports that the Delta variant makes up virtually all sequenced samples in Hawaii. The Delta variant was first identified in Hawaii in June of this year. Though the report does not show a breakdown by island, the Delta variant account for 94 percent of recent cases in Maui County.
“These reports reinforce what we know about the alarming increase in cases across Hawaii. Delta is different—it is twice as transmissible as other variants,” said state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death, including from the Delta variant. It’s critical that Hawaii residents take precautions to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 and preserve healthcare capacity.”