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New daily COVID infections are dropping, but some hospitals are still dangerously full

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:17 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials say Hawaii is making good progress in knocking back a COVID surge, but warn hospitals remain very full.

On Wednesday, 282 COVID patients were hospitalized statewide.

That’s down nearly 40% from the peak three weeks ago ― when that number stood at 448.

But both Pali Momi and Hilo medical centers are still running over their licensed bed capacities, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the association, said Hawaii hospitals are now very close to where they were during a COVID peak in August 2020.

Back then, 291 COVID patients were hospitalized across the state.

Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association, said hospitals wouldn’t be able to care for their high patient counts without the help of 650 temporary medical staff flown in from the mainland.

“Without those travel nurses we would be in deep kim chee right now,” he said.

“I would predict there would be people dying and we would probably be doing what Idaho had to do, which is deciding who to give care to based on their chances of survivability.”

It’s a scenario he hopes we never face.

“That’s a very scary and disturbing thing. To put that decision on any healthcare worker,” Ross said.

While some of the strain has begun to subside at the acute care level, ICUs are still packed.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said 70 COVID patients are currently in ICUs. Fifty-three of them are on ventilators.

“This is still a very high number overall,” he said.

Ross added, “Things are better in acute care hospitals but they’re not great. It’s still at a danger level where it could get really bad.”

As of Wednesday, there were still more than 7,100 active COVID infections across the state.

“That would usually project out to 225 hospitalizations, more hospitalizations coming in the next two weeks,” Green said.

Meanwhile, officials are calling the state’s vaccination numbers steady but not stellar. Between 4,000 and 4,500 shots are currently being administered a day.

“The caveat is that we should all be safe,” Green said. “There are still 144,000 individuals who are eligible for the vaccine but haven’t gotten it. That’s exactly 10% of the population.

“That 10% is extremely vulnerable to catching Delta. And if many of them catch the Delta virus we would see another surge in hospitalizations.”

Contracts for the first wave of relief healthcare workers will expire in mid-October. However, HNN has learned there is FEMA funding to extend some of their deployments.

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