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In urging residents to get boosters, Honolulu’s mayor says: ‘We’re not out of this yet’

Healthcare leaders say they do expect hospitalizations to continue to rise in the next few weeks but they're not as concerned as they were with the Delta surge.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:53 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:25 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi once again urged residents to get a booster shot to protect themselves against Omicron, which continues to spread widely across the state.

“We’re not out of this yet,” Blangiardi said, at a news conference Wednesday.

Less than a third of Hawaii residents have received a third dose of the vaccine. That’s despite mounting science that the booster can protect against severe illness while two shots might prove less effective.

Blangiardi was joined Wednesday morning by several health care leaders, who also promoted booster shots to protect themselves ― and rapidly-filling hospitals.

“Being vaccinated and boosted may not stop you from getting infected,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO Hilton Raethel.

“However, being vaccinated and boosted will lessen the severity of the infection should you become exposed, it will reduce how transmissible you are, and it will dramatically reduce your potential of becoming seriously ill.”

Officials said today that there are nearly 2,000 workers quarantined or in isolation because of exposure to COVID-19.

The message come as Hawaii continues to see record COVID case counts although the experts believe Hawaii’s surge is close to hitting the peak.

“There are very early signs that we’re either at or approaching the peak of this curve,” said Ray Vara, Hawaii Pacific Health President and CEO.

“I think there’s a lot of reason for us to be hopeful that we’re going to see the other side of this in relatively short order,” Vara added.

The optimism comes from the relatively lower fatality and hospitalization rates compared to the Delta variant surge last summer.

“We have sufficient oxygen, ventilators or PPE, personal protective equipment. Our biggest challenge continues to be the adequacy of our workforce,” said Raethel.

Staffing shortages are one reason the Queen’s Medical Center’s West Oahu facility had to keep 90 beds closed, said Queen’s Health Systems President and CEO Jill Hoggard Green.

Another reason is the spread of the virus.

“If you have COVID, we won’t put someone in that room so that’s a blocked bed,” said Green.

At Kaiser Permanente, workers are having to fill in with double shifts to make up for shortages.

“I’ve never seen, in all my 40 years, staff take on so many extra shifts and doctors work so many extra shifts,” said Greg Christian, Hawaii market president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

Staffing shortages impact everything from hospitals to schools, there is also a growing debate about whether the state and city should do more to rein in infections.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, said the state isn’t doing enough to stop Omicron.

He outlined a 10-point plan to address the crisis, which includes greater availability of testing, more restrictions for Safe Travels, and more access to high-quality masks.

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