HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii has seen lower COVID case counts within the past few weeks, but on many days the number of deaths reported remains high.
The state reported 35 new COVID-related deaths during the last week of October and the first week of November. People with underlying health conditions on Oahu — in the 60 to 69 age range — made up most of the deaths.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), the numbers get updated once the department receives death certificates from doctors, hospitals or the medical examiner.
“You know the cases that are being reported today could be cause of activity over the last couple of weeks,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “We had some low numbers in the last couple weeks, but it may just be a timing issue depending on when these cases are processed, if lab tests need to be done, what did this patient actually die of or an autopsy needs to be done.”
According to the DOH, in October, the state’s death toll from the coronavirus jumped from a total of 813 to 911. The 60 to 69 and the 70 to 79 age ranges had the highest increase of deaths. Health experts said the rise in deaths is expected.
“Deaths tend to lag significantly behind hospitalizations and, most significantly, the case counts,” said Dr. Thomas Lee, University of Hawaii assistant epidemiology professor. “So, it’s no surprise when the cases are coming down, deaths weren’t really rising yet and hospitalizations were trending up.”
The medical examiner has one of its morgue trailers in full use, and there is already another one ready. A third trailer is also there, but it is not in use at this time. FEMA already has 380 applicants from Hawaii for its funeral assistance program for loved one’s who have died from COVID.
“So, we’re hoping right now that this is just an anomaly or a little bit of catch up, but unfortunately this just continues to reinforce how serious this disease is and how deadly it is,” Raethel added.
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“We should still take COVID seriously in terms of making sure you take all the precautions that are possible to protect yourself and your loved ones with vaccinations, mask wearing as well when you’re with a large group of people,” said Dr. Lee.