‘We’re closer to the point where we will run out of capacity’: Hawaii health officials urge no gatherings


HONOLULU (KHON2) — More than 9,300 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Hawaii since Saturday, Aug. 7.

The surge in cases has been stressing hospitals for weeks and Queen’s West declared an internal state of emergency on Friday, Aug. 20, after their emergency room was flooded with patients.

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There have been 1,576 COVID-19 cases reported from Ewa to Makaha in the last two weeks.

Queen’s West emergency department has 24 beds, Jason Chang, Queen’s Health Systems COO said 63 patients showed up Friday and 26 believed they had COVID.

“Yesterday was a meltdown at Queen’s West, they were completely overwhelmed,” explained Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

“It was double their capacity and had to go on divert for six hours,” he explained.

Triage tents were set up and ambulances took several patients to hospitals in town, but capacity there was also limited.

Health officials warn other Oahu hospitals could face a similar challenge soon.

COVID-19 hospitalizations jumped from 320 on Monday, Aug. 15, to 381 on Friday, Aug. 20.

“That’s a very significant jump in about five days,” explained Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president. “And there’s no indication yet that those numbers are going down.”

Green said there were 388 hospitalized with COVID-19 by 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21.

“My concern for the next three weeks is we’re going to see this happen again and again,” he said. “We’re going to see hospitals fill up, go on divert, and it’s a domino effect because then the hospitals around them fill up, usually the smaller hospitals, so we’re going to have to do everything we can to provide extra services.”

More than 500 FEMA staff are on their way to assist. Raethel said more will probably be needed — but other states need help too.

“Essentially we’re in a bidding war with other states and the rest of the nation, and there is a finite number of staff that are out there who are willing to travel because hospitals are full across the country generally,” Raethel explained.

“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we really will run out of capacity in the state,” he continued.

Raethel said nearly all hospitals across the state have scaled back non-urgent procedures and screenings.

“We certainly don’t want to get to the point where we run out of all capacity and we really have to make decisions about who gets care and who doesn’t get care,” he said. “That is not a place we want to be in.”

Green said if hospitals continue to face surges like Queen’s West did, Gov. Ige will have no choice but to take drastic action.

“At the end of the day, we have to have hospital care for everyone,” Green said.

Health officials are urging people not to gather and to be extra cautious when it comes to things like hiking, swimming or other potential injury-prone activities in the coming weeks.

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