‘We’re exhausted’: Leeward healthcare workers plead with community to get vaccinated

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Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 12:13 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 2:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid a surge in new COVID cases, officials from the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center said they have never seen so many sick patients before.

According to Jacob Schafer, the center’s director of infection control, the facility is seeing twice the number of people coming in for testing rather than coming in for a vaccine.

Currently, the area has about a 35% vaccination rate.

“We’re exhausted,” he said. “I mean, we’re pleading with the public to get vaccinated. Not only to protect yourself and protect our community, but also to give us a break. I mean, we’ve been going at this for a year and a half, and we are working harder now than we ever have before.”

Schafer said the team is also encouraging people to get tested early and as soon as any symptoms develop. In some circumstances, positive patients tell contact tracers that they’ve been feeling sick for days before they get tested and end up spreading the virus.

“A runny nose, a little fever, sometimes in you cough, get tested,” he said. “That’s all free now. We need to protect our families and ourselves here and the leeward side.”

Schafer also said that the number of breakthrough cases ― or positive patients who were vaccinated at the time of infection ― rose 12% in the past week.

“I do want to point out that this is absolutely not a reason to not get vaccinated,” he said.

“Of the people that tested positive that were fully vaccinated, none of them have been hospitalized and all of the illnesses were fairly minor.”

Juanita Nalani Benioni, better known as ‘Aunty Nalani,’ is the administrator at WCCHC’s Native Hawaiian Healing Center and is part of the Kupuna Council.

She said many folks in the community are on the fence about the vaccine.

“Even if you were one of the most vocal ones against the vaccine, this is the time to put all of that away,” she said. “And don’t worry about what people are going to say about you, because you were anti-vaccine, and now you are for vaccine. It’s the right thing to do.”

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