HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state has reported more COVID cases in the first 10-days of January than the past three months combined.
And about 1,500 healthcare workers are out sick, as COVID hospitalizations reach above 300.
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On Monday, January 10, Queen’s Health Systems declared an internal state of emergency at Queen’s West, where the rate of hospital admissions outpaced the number of beds available.
As of 3 p.m. Monday, Queen’s West was at 112% capacity, and 96 providers were out due to COVID exposure.
The hospital said higher-risk patients may be transferred to Queen’s Punchbowl.
“More than 10% of the healthcare workforce has had to quarantine because they’ve also got omicron,” explained Lt. Governor Josh Green. “So what it means is, we have ambulances go past one hospital to another where there’s more space, and usually it’s for a very temporary short period of time, like an eight-hour shift or a 12-hour shift, until we’re able to catch up with all the admissions because there are nurses and doctors and other, you know, social workers and so on that are out.”
Hospitalizations typically rise three to four weeks after infection rates climb.
The state has been doubling COVID infections weekly.
On Friday, January 7, there were 247 people in the hospital who had COVID-19, by Monday, January 10, there were 311, according to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
“That’s a fairly material jumped over the last few days,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO. “The good news is that our ICU numbers are not going up at a very high rate.”
He said 11-12% of COVID hospitalizations involve an ICU stay, compared to delta where 20 to 30 percent of people hospitalized with COVID ended up in the ICU.
Raethel said he expects hospital numbers to climb through the month.
“We fully expect given the infection rate and the positivity rate in the state that we will get close to or perhaps even exceed the hospitalization rate that we had during the Delta surge,” he said.
The surge comes as staff fall sick, or come into close contact with omicron. Raethel estimated between 1,400 and 1,500 healthcare workers across the state were currently out due to covid.
About 30 nurses were out at Hilo Medical Center and the hospital is currently full.
“Today, we have 12 holds in the emergency department, they’re waiting for beds upstairs,” explained Elena Cabatu, Hilo Medical Center director of marketing.
Raethel said there are about 100 patients statewide in emergency rooms waiting for beds.
“Which is a high number much higher than what we would normally have,” he said.
He said it also stems from a staffing issue at nursing homes and long-term care facilities as well.
“The hospitals are having trouble discharging patients to nursing homes because the nursing homes don’t have sufficient staff to staff all their beds,” Raethel explained. “It’s not a bed issue, it’s a staffing issue. So until we can figure out how to get more staff into our long-term care facilities, this will continue to be a problem.”
For now, experts believe omicron will peak in late January.
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A CDC forecast shows a similar timeframe with the surge peaking in about two weeks.