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Kaua‘i begins to see new COVID-19 cases spike

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i is beginning to see a spike in its COVID-19 cases as anticipated.

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office announced 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

“With this rapid rise in cases, we can assume that the omicron variant is on Kaua‘i. Please take extra precautions over the holidays: limit gatherings to household members, gather outdoors, wear masks indoors, and isolate yourself at home if you feel ill,” Dr. Janet Berreman, Kaua‘i District Health Officer said.

These Wednesday cases consist of 11 visitors and 30 residents.

Of the 41 new cases, three are children and 38 are adults. Twenty-four of the cases are related to travel – 22 mainland and two interisland. The remaining 17 cases are considered community-acquired. Ten of the community-acquired infections are close contacts of a previously announced case or are tied to an active cluster. The remaining seven cases have no known source of infection.

Kaua‘i counted 121 active cases, with three hospitalized.

Hospitals in the state are bracing for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

According to the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, many hospital beds are already taken by patients that do not have the coronavirus, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. But with COVID-19 infection rates surging over the past week, including an increase of the omicron variant, officials expect more hospitalizations.

“If the infection rate and positivity rate continues to increase, then that is a very strong determinant of a subsequent increase in hospitalizations,” said Hilton Rae­thel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i. “The infection rate and positivity rate occurring this week will result in hospitalizations next week after Christmas. If there continues to be an increase, then in the new year we’ll get another bump from that.”

Hawai‘i had a seven-day average of about 100 daily cases in the first week of December. The state reported nearly 1,000 new cases on Wednesday, the sixth day of elevated infection numbers. The test positivity rate on O‘ahu, where the vast majority of cases are being detected, was about 9%. Raethel said about 2,239 of roughly 2,600 hospital beds are already occupied. As of Tuesday, 60 of those beds were coronavirus patients.

“Our hospitals are already pretty full and fairly close to the peak we had during the (delta) surge, which is why we’re very concerned,” he said.

During a summer surge of delta variant cases, some hospitals were full and 2,365 beds were occupied statewide. Nearly 500 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at the peak of the delta surge. As the number of hospitalizations grow, officials say staffing could become a problem.

“Right now all indicators are that we’re going to need to bring in additional help,” Raethel said.

Nearly 800 additional hospital staff were flown into the state from the mainland during the last spike in cases. Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for the workers ended in November, Raethel said, and most left the state. Raethel said plans are already being made to bring in more hospital workers.
Source: The Garden Island

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