HONOLULU (KHON2) — The rapid rise of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii is starting to affect staffing levels across industries — from lifeguards to baristas who make your daily coffee. 

The number of essential workers who are out for COVID reasons keeps increasing. On Oahu, emergency services and Ocean Safety have about 50 employees who are out due to quarantine or isolation. 

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Ocean Safety Chief John Titchen said two lifeguard towers were closed on Wednesday, Dec. 29, but lifeguard mobile units will continue to respond to those areas. 

“It would be disingenuous to say we are not short of workers — we are — we are currently down about 21,” Titchen explained. “We have people coming back, we expect people may go out. I just want to remind the public we are on duty, we have been closing a tower or two daily for the past few weeks.”

Meanwhile, the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) said 85 officers are in isolation and 27 officers are in quarantine. The department said they are making adjustments, and there is no impact to police calls for service at this time. 

Over 50 Honolulu Fire Department (HFD) staff are also out due to quarantine. 

Additionally, the need for staff to quarantine is impacting small businesses. The Curb cafe co-owner Ross Uehara-Tilton said they closed for two days after one employee tested positive for the coronavirus. All other staff tested negative, but Uehara-Tilton said there is uncertainty with the omicron variant. 

“One person out sick has a significant impact on our staffing levels. If it were to be a cluster where we had even two, three, four employees, I mean, we would have to close, we just wouldn’t have enough staffing to stay open.”

Ross Uehara-Tilton, The Curb cafe co-owner

At HPD, support officers are helping with patrol. The city’s emergency services and ocean safety are authorizing overtime. 

“The rest of the team are doing overtime. Our part-timers are stepping up, I authorized chiefs to work on the ambulance to keep us running,” Dr. James Ireland, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department director said.

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) recently revised its quarantine recommendations based on recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The DOH said those who are COVID-19 positive, regardless of vaccination status, should isolate for at least five days and until symptoms are gone. People should continue to wear a mask for five days after isolation.