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As mainland relief nurses near the end of their contracts, experts warn some hospitals are still very full

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 3:39 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 4:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the next two weeks, contracts will expire for 247 traveling nurses and respiratory therapists deployed to Hawaii over the summer. Now negotiations are underway to keep many of those mainland healthcare workers on island ― at least a little while longer.

Officials confirmed 111 have agreed to extend their stay for about another month.

The relief health care workers are funded by FEMA, and some are preparing to leave as the state’s COVID crisis continues to abate.

COVID hospitalizations in Hawaii have dropped 60% since peaking on Sept. 3 at 448.

But not every community is out of the woods.

Officials confirm Queen’s Medical Center West Oahu is still operating over its licensed bed capacity. Other facilities remain stretched thin.

“There has been pent up demand,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “So what we’re seeing now is that we have a material number of individuals who are coming in from procedures, surgeries. There’s a bunch of activity and that’s keeping our hospitals full.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Josh Green says he believes the state is fast approaching a time where people should be able to get back to normal social and economic activity.

“Our positivity rate at 3.5% is lower than the national average ― and they’re wide open. They’re at 6.4%,” he said. “When we as a state are under 3% positivity and we’re under 200 people in the hospital consistently, that’s when restrictions should start to fall away.”

He predicts Hawaii will meet that threshold in about two weeks.

“Without a doubt people would like to go to some of the sporting events. See their kids, see UH football. Attend events and be at restaurants more easily,” Green said.

“Those are the kinds of restrictions that should go away. We should still wear masks indoors. We should still be careful about travel.”

Statewide, clinicians have delivered more than two million vaccines while 5.7% of the state’s population have had a confirmed COVID diagnosis. As of Monday, 68.2% of Hawaii residents were fully vaccinated.

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