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There are no COVID patients in Hawaii ICUs, but hospitals are still bursting at the seams

Hawaii marked a key milestone in the pandemic on Monday.
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 3:26 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 13, 2022 at 7:42 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii marked a key milestone in the pandemic on Monday.

For the first time in nearly two years there are no COVID patients in Hawaii intensive care units. The total number of people hospitalized with the virus also continues to drop, averaging just 20 this week statewide.

Despite the steep decline, officials say hospitals are still bursting at the seams ― inundated with people who put off care during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, major staffing shortages continue.

“The hospitals are still jam-packed full,” said Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association.

“It’s still not a safe situation,” he said. “It’s bad. Staffing is really bad.”

Officials say on average there are close to 2,300 people hospitalized across the state — “which is a very high level for us,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. He said historically, the hospital census hovered at about 2,000 patients before the pandemic.

At the same time, Raethel confirms the number caregivers is dwindling.

During the Omicron surge, close to 900 nurses were flown in from the mainland to keep hospitals up and running. Now all but about 200 of those traveling health care workers are gone.

“We just don’t have enough nurses in the state to take care of that volume of patients,” Raethel said.

Ross says the inability to recruit and retain quality caregivers often comes down to money.

“Really the bottom line is they need a competitive wage. Especially on the neighbor islands,” said Ross. “You can work anywhere else in the nation and have a higher standard of living.”

Experts say it’s unclear as to when the number of patients flocking to hospitals might begin to recede.

“We were hoping that it would have come down by now because the pandemic has been easing for a while,” Raethel said.

Ross added, “I don’t see an end in sight.”

While cities like Philadelphia have recently reinstated indoor mask mandates, Raethel says the spread of the virus in Hawaii remains low.

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