Mobile COVID testing initiative aimed at screening underserved areas of Hawaii County

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Premier Medical COVID-19 testers prepare tests for people in line Tuesday in Mountain View.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald About eight cars are lined up around the Mountain View Gym while people wait to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday in Mountain View.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Janet Weed is tested for COVID-19 by Premier Medical Group on Tuesday at the Mountain View Gym.

Premier Medical Group traveled to Mountain View on Tuesday to screen the community for COVID-19 as part of an initiative to test underserved areas in Hawaii County.

Premier Medical has been one of the leaders in COVID-19 community-testing efforts. While testing arrivals at the Hilo and Kona airports, Premier also has operated a mobile testing van since November.

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“We wanted to (try) coming to rural communities for testing, which will be helpful when we start distributing vaccines,” said Dr. Kaohimanu Dang Akiona, Hawaii County medical director for Premier Medical Group.

On Mondays, Premier drives the van northwest to test communities in North Kohala, Waimea or Waikoloa.

On Tuesdays, the group travels to do testing in Volcano, Mountain View, Hawaii Paradise Park or Kalapana. The testing team plans to visit Volcano regularly and travel to the other locations on a rotating schedule.

On Fridays, Premier travels to Honokaa, Naalehu, Pahala or Hawaiian Ocean View Estates to serve communities in Hamakua and Ka‘u.

Premier will be at the Honokaa Sports Complex from 8-11 a.m. Friday morning, Keaau High School from 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Waimea District Park from 8-11 a.m. Monday.

The Premier mobile testing team also has been coordinating testing efforts during Ohana Food Drops hosted by The Food Basket-Hawaii Island’s Food Bank.

“This is our way of supporting people who are already out and may need testing,” Akiona said. “We also want to support the workers and volunteers at (The) Food Basket in case they need testing as well.”

On Thursday, Jan. 28, Premier and The Food Basket will be at Kahuku Park in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates in the morning for COVID-19 testing and a food drop.

Tuesday was the first time Premier traveled to Mountain View, and approximately 40 people were tested.

“I think there’s a lot to be said about going to people in their community instead of waiting for them to come to you,” Akiona said. “I think consistently showing up somewhere helps people and makes them feel seen.”

Tuesday’s drive-through testing took place at the Mountain View Gym next to Na Wai Ola Public Charter School. Premier let the school know the mobile testing group would be there in case any teachers, parents or students wanted to get tested.

Mountain View resident Janet Weed was on her way to the Keaau Urgent Care to get tested before she saw the testing sign on her way out of town.

“This is my first time getting tested, and I just caught this randomly on my drive,” Weed said. “Someone I know got the virus, so I’m glad I could get this so quickly.”

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Testing locations and times for the month of January can be found on a calendar on the COVID-19 response tab of the county’s website.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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