HONOLULU, Hawaii -- For more than two months, a team from the Hawai‘i National Guard Joint Task Force, Task Force Medical (TF Med) have performed more than 1,400 COVID-19 swab tests since July through September at the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) Substation location in the Chinatown Historic District of downtown Honolulu, Hawai‘i.
Chinatown is one of the oldest towns in Hawai‘i and in the United States. In 1900, flea-infested rats from disembarking ships likely caused the spread of the bubonic plague in Chinatown. More than a century after the plague decimated the area, a revitalized Chinatown faces renewed hardships as residents and businesses work together to end the COVID-19 crisis.
Staff Sgt. Class William Ham, an Army medic assigned to TF Med, is the senior non-commissioned officer in charge of testing operations at the substation. On site, Ham supports and assists the military-trained medical specialists who provide rapid COVID testing.
“Working Chinatown opens up a whole new mindset on just how much our communities are in need of support,” Ham said.
The town’s one-way streets and tightly packed infrastructure have not hindered people from finding the testing site. During peak hours, the line for testing can be seen poking out from the alley wrapping around the front of the police substation. Patients that have been tested received their results in less than 30 minutes.
In addition to monitoring the well-being of his team, Ham also keeps an eye on those waiting in line.
“Patients are generally pleased with the testing we conduct,” said Ham. “Testing is quick. Patients receive their results within minutes with many fitting their COVID test into their busy schedules.”
The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) Disease Outbreak Control Division reported from mid-July through August, the statewide 7-day average for COVID positive cases reached into the triple digits week after week. Ham ensured that within the hours of operation they had enough test kits to meet the demand for testing.
“The daily tests being performed have significantly increased due to the surge of positive patients throughout the island,” said Ham. “We average about 120 to 150 tests a day.”
TF Med provided assistance to DOH and other state agencies at multiple venues across the island of O‘ahu, including prisons, healthcare centers, public schools, the Honolulu Zoo, and the Aloha Stadium. At each site, TF Med provided one or more services such as administrative, COVID testing, and inoculation support.
The pandemic has revealed Hawai‘i’s strong community values, with many willing to come together to do their part to protect themselves and others from the virus.
“It is a very humbling experience to be working alongside the DOH and HPD,” Ham said. “It’s great to see the community being proactive and showing concern for COVID-19.”