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Number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Hawaii Island could soon test capacity

Updated: Aug. 27, 2020 at 5:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County reported 10 new coronavirus cases Thursday, with the number of hospitalizations on the island now up to 14.

Four of those patients are in the Intensive Care Unit, authorities say.

“A week ago, we didn’t have any. So this has certainly been a surge for us,” said Dan Brinkman, East Hawaii Regional CEO at Hilo Medical Center.

Two of the four ICU patients are from next door at the Yukio Okutsu Veterans State Home, where seven residents and three staff members recently tested positive.

“The other five are still here at the veterans home in our (COVID-19) unit, so they’re separated from the rest of the residents,” said Douglas Taylor, the administrator at the home.

“We only have 24 ICU beds, I believe, on the Big Island, so we could surge past our capacity fast,” added Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who is also an emergency room doctor.

In addition to the outbreak at the care home, another cluster has been traced to Liberty Dialysis in Hilo. The Department of Health also recently cited a large funeral service as the source of another cluster.

“Stop social gatherings,” said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Perreira, who was working a drive-through test site in Keaukaha on Thursday. “Just stay away from each other as much as we can.”

Hundreds lined up to be tested, including Varner Abreu of Hawaiian Paradise Park,

“I showed up at 8 a.m., they started at 9 a.m., I heard, and it’s now 11 a.m., so it’s a bit of wait time,” Abreu said. “But it’s worth it.”

Abreu isn’t sick, but he is concerned about exposure. Mayor Harry Kim said only about 400 people were able to get tested Thursday, and many had to be turned away.

The county is planning another testing event for Saturday.

“Remember, the purpose of testing is to find out if someone is infected, to isolate them and prevent further spreading,” said Mayor Harry Kim.

Since the pandemic began in March, the Big Island has reported a total of 253 cases. This week, though, the island has reported consecutive days of double-digit new cases.

Hawaii County is not the only Neighbor Island of concern, either ― Maui has also seen an outbreak at the Maui Memorial Medical Center.

“Maui only has one hospital,” said Green. “One health care resource, and you can’t transfer people over to Honolulu right now because they’re basically filling up.”

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