COVID hospitalizations soar as Hawaii awaits arrival of more relief health care workers from mainland

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 4:00 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:34 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The number of people sick with the coronavirus who are showing up at Hawaii emergency rooms is climbing at an alarming rate.

On Saturday, hospitals admitted 57 COVID patients ― a single-day record.

Meanwhile, a team of relief health care workers who arrived from the mainland over the weekend was much smaller than expected.

“It is challenging procuring enough staff because there is so much demand nationally for those travelers,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

He said he had anticipated more than 250 traveling nurses and respiratory therapists from the mainland to touch down at Honolulu’s airport but only about 200 showed up.

“Another wave of healthcare workers is expected to arrive the end of this week,” he said.

With the number of active infections in Hawaii now topping 9,300, COVID hospitalizations continue to set new records almost daily.

Eight days ago, there were 300 people hospitalized with the virus statewide.

In one week, that number jumped to 390. And on Monday, it stood at 410.

Who are those requiring hospitalization?

“We know of very few visitors,” said Queen’s Health Systems CEO Jill Hoggard Green. ”The far majority are residents. And they are residents who are unvaccinated.”

Dr. Jim Ireland, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department, said the situation is growing more worrisome every day.

“At some point very, very soon none of these hospitals will have physical space to take care of these patients,” he said.

On Friday, medical triage tents went up in the parking lot outside Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu after the hospital’s 24-bed emergency room was inundated with 63 patients.

Nearly half were suspected of having COVID.

“It’s like blowing up a balloon,” Ireland said. “Put a little more air in. Put a little more air in. But eventually there’s no more room in that balloon. And it pops.

“And that’s literally where we are with all the hospitals on Oahu for sure.”

Meanwhile, officials say the number of people getting the vaccine is again on the decline. Last week, only about 3,000 shots were administered a day.

“Today, they are FDA-approved and we know they make a difference. And they could save your life,” said Hoggard Green.

State data shows 62% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated.

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