Health experts warn lawmakers about holiday surge

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are alarming projections from local health experts of a possible surge in COVID cases as we head toward the holidays. They say it emphasizes the need to strictly follow all the necessary precautions.

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The president of Queen’s Medical Center and the president of HMSA told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 that the state is heading into a perfect storm of conditions that could lead to a surge. It has little to do with the surge already happening on the mainland, or travelers coming into the state.

Queen’s showed a projection with a surge starting in October that leads to more than 400 COVID patients when the surge peaks in January.

“Because people come in, they gather, they’re going back to school, they’re going back to work, and there’s the holidays, and those holidays foreshadow lots of gatherings,” said Dr. Jill Hoggard-Green, President of Queen’s Medical Center.

She says if everyone wears a mask, follows physical distancing guidelines, washes their hands and avoids gatherings, the surge can be avoided. And that is why a new mask mandate would be helpful.

“We need a mask mandate that’s very simple and straightforward that people, all will be doing it,” said Dr. Hoggard-Green.

“And just say wear a mask in public and here are the exemptions and there are very few,” said Dr. Mark Mugiishi, President of HMSA.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said on Nov. 13 that an announcement could be made any day now of a new mask mandate.

“So that’s coming down. That’ll make it easier to going from inter-county travel to, it’ll be one policy as far as wearing a face covering,” he said.

Hoggard-Green says the surge on the mainland is troubling, but the data shows that reopening tourism has not had a significant effect. Gatherings have been the problem.

With a vaccine possibly being ready by the end of the year, there is also the concern that not enough people might want to take it.

“Right now I’m seeing numbers like 30% of people are saying they would be willing to go out and be in the first wave of people vaccinated, and that’s not enough to get herd immunity,” said Mugiishi.

Senators also raised concerns with being able to store the vaccine. The one made by Pfizer will have to be stored in extremely cold temperature and requires two doses given three weeks apart.

“I don’t think that will be a struggle for big pharmacy chains to store. So I think we can be prepared for that type of storage logistics,” said Mugiishi.

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