Expect COVID-19 hospitalization spike in 1-2 weeks, says health experts

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials say they are concerned that the consistently high COVID-19 numbers on Oahu may lead to more hospitalizations, and that this could overburden the hospital system.

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“On Oahu the surge is very real. One of our hospitals in downtown had over 40 cases in the hospital. We know another facility is already at full capacity with ICU beds,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

While the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dropped to 83 today, the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators went up from ten to 13. The capacity in the ICU remains the same at 127 out of 244 beds taken.

Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii said we may not be seeing major surges now, but they will likely come soon.

“There is a one to two-week lag between the increase in infection rates and the increase in hospitalizations,” said Raethel.

He said if the COVID-19 cases continue in the triple digits, hospitals won’t be able to handle it.

“What our models are telling us right now is that before the end of this month, before the end of August, if we do not slow down the rate of infections we will run out of ICU capacity,” said Raethel.

Some hospitals are already feeling the strain. Raethel said Kaiser’s ICU was filled yesterday and at other hospitals, staff are busier than they’ve ever been.

“We have more patients now than we’ve had at all in the past,” said Melinda Ashton, Hawaii Pacific Health chief quality officer. “The concern that we have, is that as more and more cases or more and more patients come into our hospitals, some of those people will need intensive care and we want to make sure we have enough capacity for them.”

Ashton said while they have plans for expanding ICU capacity if needed, having enough staff to take care of sick patients is an issue.

“Finding more staff is a little more difficult because we live in an island state and we live in a country where lots of places are struggling with [hiring health professionals],” said Ashton.

Some hospitals have also ramped up their visiting policy to keep patients and staff safe. Starting on Friday, visitors will no longer be allowed to see patients at Kaiser’s Moanalua Medical Center, except in extreme circumstances that include the birth of a child, pediatric patients, patients travelling with a caregiver or end-of-life situations.

Officials say they will continue to monitor hospital capacity closely.

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