National Guard preparing to assist Hawaii hospitals, testing, potential vaccine distribution

Coronavirus

(HONOLULU) KHON2 — The recent spike in COVID-19 cases on Oahu has prompted concerns from officials about the availability of hospital beds.

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In the short-term, there are just 144 intensive care unit beds available, but the state has reserves ready. In the long-term, there are plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine should one be approved.

According to Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, with 3,950 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, Hawaii is looking at a projected 394 hospitalizations in the next couple of weeks.

“We’re surging at the hospitals,” Lt. Gov. Green said. “I visited three of the hospitals [Tuesday] and they’re having a big challenge.”

The Hawaii National Guard has medical staff ready to assist worn down doctors and nurses, as it anticipates more hospitalizations due to the virus.

On Wednesday, Aug. 18, Major General Kenneth Hara told the State Senate COVID-19 Committee that he met with the military’s Pacific-Indo Senior Medical Officer.

“His recommendation is if the hospitals have the capacity what they really need is additional staffing—that’s probably what will work best,” Major General Hara said.

The National Guard is also working toward creating an alternate hospital should capacity be needed. Major General Hara said he’s also looking to bolster testing, specifically diversifying testing.

“We have more diversity, so if there is a shortage in the supply chain, we’re not hamstrung by someone limiting the supplies that we require.”

This comes after Roche, the main supplier of COVID-19 testing reagents, pulled supplies out of the islands in July due to a national spike in cases. The fallout decreased capacity for quick turnaround tests at local labs.

As for the future, Major General Hara and the Department of Health are laying the foundations for vaccine distribution. With Moderna’s vaccine currently in phase three of a clinical trial, and the Federal Government’s plan to have a vaccine ready by January 2021, things could move quickly.

“How detailed is the distribution plan? How are we linking with the small clinics? So we’re lead forward both HIEMA and my National Guard planners are going to help Department of Health ensure that we have a very robust plan so when this vaccination is ready to go we are ready to execute and not try to figure out what we’re trying to do,” Major General Hara said.

HIEMA has also accumulated $61 million for PPE use across the state.

Hospitals – $24 million
Allied Medical Providers – $8 million
Child Care – $4 million
Elder Care Facilities – $4 million
Small Businesses – $7 million
Non-profits – $4 million
Department of Education – $4 million
University of Hawaii – $4 million
Warehousing & Distribution – $2 million

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