Relief for nurses through federal support and lower COVID-19 cases

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Department of Health said COVID-19 cases are beginning to decline after a six-week surge in new cases, and 169 new cases were reported on Thursday and the decline in numbers is also being reflected at hospitals.

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Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said they are in better shape than they were a month ago. Ross is also a nurse at Queen’s Medical Center. The facility was nearly at 90% capacity just a couple of weeks ago.

Ross said, “The number of patients admitted or in the hospital right now in COVID isolation has dropped remarkably, I believe today was down in the seventies, it was over 100 not very long ago.”

Ross said the surge in hospitalizations resulted in medical staff working longer hours, nurses also worked overtime to fill-in gaps for those employees who are out sick.

The federal government deployed 36 nurses from the Veterans Health Administration and the U.S. Public Health Commission Corps. to support medical staff at Queen’s facilities and Kuakini Medical Center.

Ross said, “They’ve been able to get in and help out in the ICU and in the COVID units and it takes some of the stress off the other nurses having to do as many shifts.”

The federal support comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guideline for how COVID-19 patients should be isolated at hospitals. The guideline said test results can still produce a positive result even after the infectious period has passed. It said that isolation should be based on symptoms.

For patients who were critical at least 10 days and up to 20 days must have passed since symptoms appeared, for non-critical patients, it is just 10 days.

It also said patients should go least 24 hours of no fever without fever-reducing medication, and they should show improvements in symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.

Although, Ross said there are those who remain in the intensive care unit who remain very ill.

He said, “The bad part is that patients who are in there are very sick. The ICU is just as busy. The people who are severely affected their numbers have not come down too much.”

Ross added, now that the overall number of patients are beginning to level-off, this is a time for hospitals to hire extra staff for back-up.

Ross said, “I understand the financial reason for it but you need that padding because you want to be able to have a pool of experienced people that you can pull on immediately.”

The state’s department of health reported 240 hospitalizations as of September 9.

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