Hawaii has seen a 38% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past month as new case counts climbed over the holiday season.
There are currently 80 coronavirus patients in hospitals statewide compared to 58 just a month ago, Lt. Gov. Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“It’s a direct reflection of having had more active cases — 1,558 active cases in last 14 days. About 7.5% of all cases result in hospitalizations. Obviously it’s much lower than it was in the summer time when we topped out around 300,” he said. Of all the confirmed Hawaii infections, 1,446 have required hospitalizations. “This is something that we’re watching super carefully and the need to get our cases down is critical.”
Still, the islands are doing significantly better than mainland states such as California, which on Christmas Eve became the first in the nation to top 2 million confirmed cases, with overwhelmed hospitals considering rationing health care.
Hawaii health officials reported 46 new coronavirus infections today, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 21,028 cases. The number is artificially low due to lower testing over the Christmas holiday weekend, Green said.
No new deaths were reported, however, Hawaii County officials said Sunday that one coronavirus-related death on the Big Island was reported over the past week. The state’s official COVID-19 death toll remains at 285.
“We seem to have weathered so far the middle part of December and now we’re going to see what the Christmas/New Year’s gatherings bring,” Green said, adding that corresponding hospitalizations follow about two weeks after a spike in cases. “The trends are good but things can get out of control very quickly, which is why we really need people to not have large gatherings over New Year’s — that’s critically important to our well-being.”
Meanwhile, the state received about 16,300 COVID-19 vaccines today. It has so far administered about 14,000 doses, not including those distributed through the Department of Defense, according to the state Department of Health, which received 5,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine on Oahu and another 5,700 doses on the neighbor islands. CVS and Walgreens, which are administering shots in long-term care facilities, were slated to receive an additional 5,400 deliveries. Hawaii is expecting a total of 61,450 by years’s end — 24% less than the 81,825 the state ordered — due to production delays.
Hospitals have begun immunizing health care workers, as first responders also line up to get the shots. Long-term care residents and staff were scheduled to start being inoculated today, as health officials prepare to distribute the vaccine to independent doctors and medical practice staff who are considered high-risk. The state is planning a vaccination campaign for more than 100,000 seniors 75 and older next, though the largest number of people to get vaccinated won’t be until late spring, Green said.
Over the holidays, the state has seen about 15,000 travelers a day, up from the average 10,000, but Hawaii has had the lowest rate of coronavirus in the country for the sixth week in a row, as well as the lowest COVID-19 fatalities in the last seven days, he added. Gov. David Ige told the Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii program that those who are immunized will be able to travel without restriction.
“Hawaii’s been doing very well in the last stage in the COVID crisis, but if we start seeing big surges, we’ll tighten things up again because it will be reflected in hospitalizations and deaths two to three weeks later. Thirteen cases out of 1,000 that get diagnosed end up resulting in fatality,” he said. “Overall if people have a quiet New Year’s, we’ll trend back down and you’ll see hospital numbers drop down too. If we do those things (mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing), Hawaii is really going to outperform the rest of the country and we’ll be able to celebrate far less loss of life.”