HONOLULU (KHON2) — While the recent surge in COVID cases has caused staffing shortages for several industries and businesses, hospitals are also dealing with that issue.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii believes the worst of the omicron surge has yet to come as the new variant is beginning to put a strain on local hospitals.

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Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said that getting vaccinated, wearing masks when indoors and socially distancing can protect everyone — including healthcare workers.

“It’s also protecting healthcare workers who are taking care of all of these patients to run our hospitals across the state,” Raethel explained.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 5, there are 214 COVID-19 cases statewide with 25 in the ICU. At the same time in December 2021, there were only 40 hospitalizations and eight in the ICU across Hawaii.

“Our healthcare workers are needed not just to take care of COVID patients. They are needed to take care of everything else.”

Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii

Raethel emphasized that while the omicron variant appears to be less severe than the delta, it is more contagious and severe than the flu or common cold.

In December 2021, the state submitted a formal request for FEMA clinicians to return to Hawaii if hospitals get overwhelmed again due to the recent coronavirus surge.

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He added that they are hoping to get the OK from FEMA soon to bring in more hospital staff from the mainland.