Epidemiologist calls COVID situation on the Leeward coast a ‘disaster’


WAIANAE, Hawaii (KHON2) — The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center said it is inundated with COVID patients.

“Our community is in crisis,” said the Director of Infection control at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Jacob Schafer.

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Schafer is the facility’s epidemiologist. He said about one in four tests is coming back positive, which is a 25% positivity rate. He added that the Waianae Coast has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.

“We’re having trouble finding beds for them,” Schafer said about the current situation. “We’re calling multiple institutions. We’re calling Kaiser. We’re calling Queen’s. We’re calling Pali Momi. [There are] very, very few beds available, and it’s taking a long time to get these folks the emergency care they need.”

His message came as Queen’s West Oahu declared an internal state of emergency due to the influx of COVID patients.

“The entire Leeward coast is a disaster area right now,” Schafer told KHON2. “The rates are incredible. The amount of active infection we are seeing doubles every seven to 10 days. I don’t see an end insight.”

Schafer said the current COVID situation in Hawaii is extremely tough for health care workers.

“I’m an epidemiologist,” he said. “I used to do a lot of international disaster response. So I’ve worked on Ebola, cholera, disasters like that. I have never seen a situation as dire as the one right now.”

The Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center is testing hundreds of people a day.

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Schafer said anyone who feels the slightest bit sick should get tested for COVID-19 immediately. He also said even vaccinated folks should stay home and avoid social gatherings for the time being.

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