Hawaii is ending its free COVID-19 test program as cases increase
Hawaii is ending its free COVID-19 test program as cases increase

Hawaii is ending its free COVID-19 test program as cases increase

HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii’s coronavirus positivity rate has more than doubled in the last month as mask mandates ended and demand for testing fell.

Despite the increase, the state Department of Health stopped its free testing program on Wednesday when federal funding ended. The state’s organized vaccination efforts will also move to traditional health systems, and a mobile vaccine program to reach people who cannot leave their homes will cease.

The weekly average positivity rate rose from 2.9% a month ago to 7.1% this week, according to state health data. This is the fifth week in a row of increases as the omicron BA.2 variant spread.

Tim Brown, a model of infectious diseases at the East-West Center in Manoa, told Honolulu Star Advertiser that he is worried because the infection rate is rising as testing is declining.

“Basically, what’s happening right now is that people have forgotten COVID, but the reality is that it’s still spreading in society,” Brown said. “We are clearly in an increasing phase of the pandemic now.”

Despite an increase, overall hospitalization rates in Hawaii remain low.

The state spent nearly $ 80 million on its free testing program, Health Department spokesman Brooks Baehr said.

“Most importantly,” he said, “there are still opportunities out there.”

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