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As COVID cases rise, Hawaii leaders brace for another surge in hospitalizations

The state reported 282 new COVID infections Wednesday ― the highest single-day count since early October ― amid growing fears about the spread of Omicron.
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 3:32 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 16, 2021 at 6:54 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state reported 282 new COVID infections Wednesday ― the highest single-day count since early October ― amid growing fears about the spread of Omicron.

But while COVID cases have jumped 120% since Thanksgiving, the latest uptick hasn’t resulted an increase in hospitalizations.

At least not yet.

A total of 35 patients are currently being treated in facilities statewide; 25 were not vaccinated.

As cases continue to rise, hospitals are bracing for a spike in new admissions.

“We’re seeing an increase of cases right now. Most of them are still Delta. But the Omicron variant is going up,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “There are projections from some of our major hospitals that they’re expecting to see significant increases in hospitalizations in January and February.”

Green said by the end of next week officials will have a better idea of just how severe this new surge in COVID cases is going to be.

He says as the virus mutates, as with Omicron, “the vaccination is not quite as protective against it.”

“So people need to get their booster. If you got your vaccine and finished it off in June, your immunity has dropped down a lot. You really need to protect yourself.”

While 73.2% of Hawaii residents are fully vaccinated, Green says only about 20% have gotten a booster shot. “The most vulnerable people, though, are people over 50,” he said.

So far, only 28% of residents between the ages of 50 and 64 have gotten their booster. About half of people over 65 have gotten the additional shot.

Health officials worry if more people don’t roll up their sleeve soon, hospitals that are already full of patients needing treatment for other emergencies and ailments could again become overwhelmed.

“EMS right now is very busy all over the island. But particularly West Oahu is extremely busy,” said Dr. Jim Ireland, head of Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department.

Ireland said this week several hospitals had to temporarily reroute ambulances because their emergency rooms were full.

“There is a slight increase for COVID calls right now,” Ireland said.

“But it’s also from people with regular medical issues perhaps because they haven’t gotten care over the last two years. They’ve been putting it off because of COVID.”

Health officials say masks and booster shots continue to be the best defense against COVID, adding if you’re planning a holiday gathering it’s safest to do it outside.

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