With cases on the rise, Hawaii hospitals brace for more COVID-19 patients

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 5:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the number of new COVID-19 infections in Hawaii on the rise, authorities are once again growing concerned about hospital capacity.

Hawaii Emergency Management reports that as of Thursday there were 129 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized across the state.

Officials say that’s manageable for now. But if case counts continue to rise so will the number of patients.

“The state’s hospitalization numbers indicate that there is still capacity at this point,” Gov. David Ige said, in a statement. “However, we remain concerned about the increase in case numbers which, over time, will mean more people in the hospital.”

In mid-December, state hospitalizations hovered around 50 patients.

In August, during a surge in the islands, the number of COVID patients was as high as 315.

“We’ve heard of the increased number of people who have tested positive for COVID over the last couple of days has been a dramatic increase,” said Dr. Melinda Ashton, chief quality officer of Hawaii Pacific Health. That, she added, is “something that we’ve all hoped wouldn’t happen.”

Ashton said their Oahu hospitals have not seen a big increase in COVID patients, despite the uptick.

“We know that when we see a high case count on a certain day then the hospitalization rate will begin to hit us one week to two weeks later,” Ashton said.

She said the hospitals have plans in place in the case of a major surge in patients.

“I think we just want to emphasize that the hospitals are ready, we will cope,” Ashton said. “But on the other hand, we need everybody in the community to do all of the right things.”

Maui is dealing with a surge in cases as well, but Maui Memorial Health Center said they are handling the rising number of cases.

“So far, we’ve been doing fairly well,” said Dr. Mike Shea, the chief medical director at Maui Health. “There has been an uptick in community incidents. As of right now, we only have 10 COVID-positive patients in the hospital, only one of them is on a ventilator.”

Shea said his staff has seen worse, and they all have gained experience and many of them will soon be getting their second shot.

“With the vaccine happening, it gives people a little bit of hope to focus on,” Shea said.

Amid the increase in cases, the governor is asking residents to take precautions.

“We continue to ask residents and visitors to please practice good prevention by masking up, keeping physical distance, and washing your hands often,” he said. “Reducing the number of social interactions with people outside household bubbles is also highly recommended.”

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